Mainstage musical with man-eating plant set to open


Amanda Lopez

Travis Ziegler and Laura Riggle, rehearse for “Little Shop of Horrors,” opening April 22.

The stage in Alumni Hall is a flurry of activity as the cast and crew of “Little Shop of Horrors” work on the set and practice musical numbers. Intermittently, Zachary Gipson, director, tells cast members to hold and asks them to try something a different way to perfect how a movement will appear to the audience or to correct the timing of a line.

With only a week left until opening night, the cast remains attentive and calm, entirely sure they will perfect the show before deadline. The cast and crew only began rehearsing five weeks ago, and the set and Audrey II, the man-eating plant, are not yet finished. Gipson is sure everything will run smoothly opening night, though.

“It’s a quick turnaround, but the cast is ready. We just need to keep running over the show to get a good groove,” Gipson said.

“Little Shop of Horrors” is based on the 1982 musical about Seymour, flower shop assistant, who is in love with his co-worker Audrey. He later finds a plant which he names Audrey II, which eats humans, including Audrey’s boyfriend, and the situation begins to worsen soon after.

The cast features Travis Joseph Ziegler as Seymour, Laura Anne Riggle as Audrey, Jared Riddle as the voice of Audrey II, Douglas DeLaughter as Mushnik, Aaron Davis as Orin, and Briana Alexis Hall, Rosa Cortes and Jocelyn Serna as The Girls.

The musical was picked because it has been three years since PNW has done a mainstage musical. In order to generate interest again, Gipson wanted to start with a small cast musical to bring awareness that PNW is trying to bring mainstage musicals back.

“I’ve wanted to do Little Shop of Horrors for about two and a half years, and I started sketches for it about one and half years ago,” Gipson said. “It’s also one of my favorites.”

Gipson was asked to direct because of his background in theatrical design and previous work in a range of theater aspects. In 2015, he started and became the director of the Ensemble Theatre Company that co-produced “The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein” with Chicago Street Theatre. He also directed, set designed, choreographed and performed in the production, which received 17 nominations from the Northwest Indiana Excellence in Theatre Foundation. It won ten of the nominations, including Best Musical.

Gipson said PNW’s adaptation will focus on how far someone is willing to go to love someone who doesn’t know they exist.

“We’re treating it as if Seymour is making this all up in his head. Nobody in it ever actually sees the plant, so if could be that he’s really murdering people,” Gipson said. “It could be that it’s all wrapped up in a meek, young botanical genius’s head.”

The set and puppets are being created by the cast and crew, with the costumes being sourced from across the region. Gipson said because the production is very technical, it gives them the opportunity to save money and express themselves creatively.

Ziegler, spring 2016 graduate of business marketing and management at the Westville campus, said he joined the production because acting in the musical would help build his credits in the theater world and Seymour was on his bucket list of characters to play.

“I had to give it a shot,” Ziegler said. “Being a lead in this production has done several things for me. I love the cast and crew, and it gives me an opportunity to work with several individuals I had previously done community theater with.”

Patricia Hales, continuing instructor in music, is providing music direction for the production. Coincidentally, the first show she ever directed music for was “Little Shop of Horrors” in 1988 at then Purdue University Calumet. The production will be using a recorded accompaniment through Music Theatre International.

“Originally we were going to go with live musicians, but because of the limits with the space and stage we didn’t,” Hales said. “That means the cast really has to know their cues, and if they miss something they have to be able to jump back in.”


Ticket prices for “Little Shop of Horrors”

Adult general: $18
Senior citizen: $16
Children 12-18: $10
Children under 12: Free
PNW students: $10
Buy them online at or at Alumni Hall Shows star April 22, 29 and 30. Shows start at 8 p.m. on April 22 and 29, and 3 p.m. on April 30.