Raising the curtains on a new community theater


Hannah Burlingame/Review • The new Inver Grove Heights Community Theatre will be performing “Little Shop of Horrors” starting Aug. 3 and running through Aug. 12 at the Simley Performing Arts Center.

Hannah Burlingame/Review • The new Inver Grove Heights Community Theatre will be performing “Little Shop of Horrors” starting Aug. 3 and running through Aug. 12 at the Simley Performing Arts Center.

Hannah Burlingame/Review • The new Inver Grove Heights Community Theatre will be performing “Little Shop of Horrors” starting Aug. 3 and running through Aug. 12 at the Simley Performing Arts Center.

‘Little Shop of Horrors’ coming to Simley

 

A new community theater program in Inver Grove Heights is getting set to raise the curtains on its inaugural season Aug. 3 with the help of the community and a $5,000 grant.

The Inver Grove Heights Community Theatre will begin its first season with a production of “Little Shop of Horrors.”

 

Community space

Barb Pierce, community education director for Inver Grove Heights Schools, said that years ago residents of the school district voted to fund an addition onto Simley High Schools for its performing arts center. The addition opened roughly three to four years ago.

Since that opening, Jim Davis, director of the Inver Grove Heights Community Theatre, said he has been trying to start a community theater group. This year, he said, everything fell into place.

“I felt if the community was going to pass a referendum to build a performing arts center, they should have something to call their own,” Davis said.

A community theater group was a way to accomplish this, allowing community members to see other community members perform, said Davis, who is also the technical director for Simley High School productions and its one-act coach.

 

Acquiring talent

Justin Madsen, who is portraying the show’s lead, Seymour, found out about the new community theater group when looking around Minnesota Playlist, which lists local shows and auditions, finding the company. 

He said “Little Shop of Horrors” is a show he’s wanted to do since high school, and Seymour was a dream role of his.

While he didn’t know anything about the group, Madsen, a 31-year-old St. Paul resident, said he decided he would audition and hope for the best.

Davis said the cast is made up of people from around the area and all ages, from 15 to 50.

Two nights of auditions were held and some 80 people showed up.

“Even when I first put it up on the website ... like one day later I had 20 responses and by the end of the week I had like 40 or 50 of just people who were interested,” Pierce said.

Davis said he was expecting to have to call some of his actor friends to be able to fill out the cast. Instead, he added a chorus to the show because he wanted the voices and the people, meaning instead of a cast of eight, the company’s inaugural production has a cast of 18.

“The amount of people that came out and the amount of talent they brought with it has been ridiculous,” Davis said.

He said he called back 10 sets of Audrey and Seymour. He kept going through the couples until he came down to the pair that gave him goosebumps. He chose Madsen, and to play Seymour’s secret crush, Abigail Chapdelaine.

Madsen said at the initial auditions he was already impressed with the number of people coming out for the show. It was during callbacks that Madsen learned it was a new community theater group.

“Normally, you don’t get this sort of a turnout for a new theater,” said Madsen. “I think it speaks volumes of the talent in the area and also it’s just really exciting to think about what the future holds for Inver Grove.”

 

The start of 

something new

“Little Shop of Horrors” is about a man-eating plant that comes from outer space and convinces a nerdy man — Seymour — who works at a flower shop, to do its evil work in exchange for good things happening to him.

“The best way I can describe it is it’s a combination between a B-list horror movie from back in the day, and Disney music,” Madsen said.

Davis said the production is geared more toward late teens and adults, and that people enjoy the slapstick humor of it. 

Pierce said last fall, the program applied for a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and was awarded $5,000, something she said is helping to deliver a higher quality production.  

She said there has been a lot of community support as well.

Keith Tetreault is a volunteer helping with this year’s show building sets — he said he found out about the theater group from his daughter, who is friends with Davis.

“I think it’s going to help bring the community together ... Hopefully there’s more plays and different community events to come,” he said.

Right now, Pierce said the group is looking at just summer performances, but the hope is to add other things into the mix.

“We’re really looking at putting on this production and starting a great tradition of community theater in Inver Grove,” she said.

Davis said the upcoming production is high on enthusiasm and production.

“The talent alone in this show is absurd. I’ve been in some musicals that have had talented people, but when you have a complete cast of talent, it’s just absolutely remarkable,” he said.

Madsen said one of the things he loves about community theater is how collaborative it is — the collaboration is both on-stage and off, including production, the actors and the audience. 

“It’s a great way to connect with the community in a different way, appreciate the local talent that we have,” Madsen said, “and really just see a super entertaining, high-energy show.”

 

– Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com

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