STUDENT CAST OF "NEXT TO NORMAL" JUGGLES MUSIC AND MENTAL ILLNESS

STUDENT CAST OF "NEXT TO NORMAL" JUGGLES MUSIC AND MENTAL ILLNESS

Washington Square News

By Julia Fields

October 25, 2018

Tisch New Theatre premiered its new production of “Next to Normal” last Tuesday at the SoHo Playhouse. The four-time Tony-winning musical follows Diana Goodman, who struggles with the tumults of bipolar disorder and its effect on her family. The small cast triumphed with the difficult themes of the show and delivered a truly heart-wrenching performance of what it means to be any member of a dysfunctional family.

The cast and crew used the limited stage space to their advantage with an intricate set design that created the illusion of multiple rooms and different perspectives of the characters. The back wall shuttered to reveal characters on a different plane than the rest. Simple desks, chairs and open panels provided a backdrop to the diverse story unfolding around them.

Though the simple set design proved effective, “Next to Normal” found the greatest success in its characters. Each one in the cast of nine shone in their respective role to make the story come alive.

Tisch School of the Arts drama junior Samantha Tullie tackled the role of Diana, which won Alice Ripley the Tony Award for best leading actress in a musical in 2009. Tullie portrayed the trials and tribulations of dealing with mental illness beautifully. Through her stunning voice and heartbreaking acting, Diana gained empathy from the entire audience for her wish that her family would remain perfect and loving for “just another day.”

Though tackling weighty themes of loss, mental illness and trauma seems daunting, this performance by college actors was utterly fearless and authentic. Through astounding music and performance, an intimate connection was formed between the actors and the audience.

Stippled with hints of laughter, the emotions of the performers seem raw and genuine throughout. Further emphasized through songs and melodies, the tension between the parties could be felt throughout the entire theater. Attendees clearly felt the emotions along with the actors, making for a triumphantly deep performance. Ushered by happiness and joy, sadness and sympathy, the audience ultimately left impressed by the full spectrum of emotions evoked by the show.

As the show came to an end, its final song, “Light,” pushed for a final wave of optimism.

“There will be light,” the performers sang, and every light in the theater lit up. It was the perfect ending for a show rooted in despair and hopelessness. The show made space for truth and honesty. It also projected ideas of hope and strength in love and relationships. Each actor performed their difficult role with such fervor and determination that it was easy to forget their young age and simply focus on the sheer emotion they possess.

Email Julia Fields at theater@nyunews.com.

BACKSTAGE AT TISCH'S "NEXT TO NORMAL"

BACKSTAGE AT TISCH'S "NEXT TO NORMAL"

Washington Square News

By Lily Dolin

October 22, 2018

When people think of student-run theater productions, their minds may jump to small-scale shows with minimalist set designs. However, for Tisch New Theatre’s student-run production of “Next to Normal,” this description couldn’t be further from the truth. Over the past couple of months, the cast and crew of “Next to Normal” have worked tirelessly on every detail of the production, and to create a show with nuance and depth.

The 2008 rock musical deals with difficult issues that many other shows wouldn’t dare to touch, including depression, addiction and suicide. Yet these uncomfortable topics are precisely the reason that the director, Tisch senior Danica Jensen, was drawn to the show. 

“For me [‘Next to Normal’] was really the first time I understood that musical theater could deal with serious and nuanced topics in a way I had only thought plays could,” Jensen said.

The selection process for the show is mainly controlled by the students and the executive board of Tisch New Theater, who partnered with Jensen to choose a musical that fit her directorial style. “Next to Normal” may be an award-winning Broadway show, but this year it’s being reinterpreted and staged through an NYU lens.

Tisch junior Tim Sebastian is the president of Tisch New Theater and a producer of the show. He has many of the same responsibilities a professional producer would have, including venue selection and production costs. Every aspect of the show must be dealt with directly by him.

“If we don’t do it, it’s not getting done,” he said.

Lighting and sound, costume design and set design are just a few of the departments that come together to create this two-and-a-half hour show. It may seem like a lot of work to be thrust upon college students, but the process provides a glimpse into what the world of professional theater is like. 

“Once you work professionally, you discover very quickly that it’s not that much different from what you’ve been doing all along in college,” said Gallatin junior Basil Apostolo, the vice president of Tisch New Theater and production manager for the show. “Sure, budgets are often bigger and the theaters sometimes have more seats, but at the end of the day, it’s still theater.”

While the cast and crew take their roles very seriously, that doesn’t mean the rehearsal process is all work and no play. Given the difficult and emotional nature of the show, the cast members try to release tension when they can.

Tisch junior Samantha Tullie plays Diana Goodman, a mother who is battling bipolar disorder and depression. During one rehearsal, in the midst of a particularly intense scene, Tullie broke character and smiled at something offstage. Making eye contact with Tullie, the producers and stage managers who were watching the rehearsal starting laughing as well.

But not a minute later, Tullie snapped back into character, belting out a beautiful and moving ballad. Her graceful transition in and out of character is representative of the way the cast and crew are able to maintain a friendly, laid-back environment while also staying on track in rehearsals and getting the job done. 

The students running this show are peers and classmates, and their camaraderie shows behind the scenes. 

“The material we are dealing with is very personal and vulnerable, we have all gotten very close very fast” Tullie told WSN. “Even though we are playing a family, outside of rehearsals we’ve turned into one big cast family as well.”

Cast member and Steinhardt junior Kyle Brenn echoed this sentiment.

“Since the cast is so small, we’ve become very close over the course of the rehearsal process,” Brenn said.

Viewers who go to see “Next to Normal” may forget that they are watching an entirely student-run show. This is understandable, as everything from the acting to the show’s marketing campaign lends itself more to an off-Broadway production. But at its core, “Next to Normal” is a show put on by students, for students and serves as a great example of what classmates can achieve when they work together. 

 “Next to Normal” runs at the SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam Street) from Oct. 23 through Nov. 4. Tickets are available at www.NYUTischNewTheatre.com.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 22 print edition. Email Lily Dolin at theater@nyunews.com.

Photo Flash: First Look At Tisch New Theatre's NEXT TO NORMAL

Photo Flash: First Look At Tisch New Theatre's NEXT TO NORMAL

BroadwayWorld

By  BWW News Desk

October 10, 2018

New York University's Tisch New Theatre is proud to present NEXT TO NORMAL, the award-winning contemporary rock musical with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, and music by Tom Kitt. Winner of three 2009 Tony Awards and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize, NEXT TO NORMAL is an electrifying look at the effects of mental illness. It explores the story of a suburban family learning to cope with crisis, memory, and grief as Diana, the mother, is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Diana struggles through a series of invasive medical treatments while attempting to remain stable with her depressed husband, her anxious teenage daughter, and above all, her elusive son, who is always on her mind.

NEXT TO NORMAL runs 14 performances October 23 through November 4, 2018 at The SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street. Tickets are on sale now! For additional information, visit www.NYUTischNewTheatre.com.

NEXT TO NORMAL is entirely produced, directed, designed, and performed by over 80 NYU students spanning across multiple schools. Tisch New Theatre has established itself as NYU's premier student theatre organization. TNT was formed in 2008 as an avenue in which emerging student artists, regardless of area of study, can experience the theatre industry within NYU and New York City. TNT is committed to developing ambitious work intended to entertain, inspire, and unite the artistic efforts of the Tisch Community with the entire NYU student body. Past productions include ONWARD; LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS; HAIRSPRAY; COMPANY; CATCH ME IF YOU CAN; and WEST SIDE STORY.

TNT's production of NEXT TO NORMAL will feature the following: Book and Lyrics by Brian Yorkey; Music by Tom Kitt; Scenic Design by Mason Delman; Costume Design by Deijah M.V.; Lighting Design by Katherine Craig; Sound Design by Lily Garcia; Production Stage Manager, Tara King; Production Manager, Basil Apostolo; General Manager, Matt Rose; Marketing Director, Chelsea Galembo; Associate Producer, Chloe Duhalde; Associate Directed and Choreographed by Kait Warner; Music Direction by Chloe Geller; Directed and Choreographed by Danica Jensen. NEXT TO NORMAL will be presented by Tim Sebastian in association with Tisch New Theatre through special arrangement with Music Theatre International.

The cast includes: Sam Tullie, Knox Van Horn, Sam Tennant, Kyle Brenn, Jose Contreras, Max Fiorello, Lizzy Gesensway, Kaeli Heffner and Aja Hinds.

For more information about Tisch New Theatre, visit www.NYUTischNewTheatre.com.

NYU LOCAL: Tisch New Theatre to Hold Benefit Concert

NYU LOCAL: Tisch New Theatre to Hold Benefit Concert

NYU News 

By Camille Larkins 

April 11, 2018

Tisch New Theatre will perform ONWARD, a benefit concert featuring 11 NYU students, on Sunday. Funds will go to Good Chance Theatre, an organization that builds temporary theaters to facilitate immigrant and local community integration.

“[Good Chance] understand[s] that expression in theatre is the most collaborative and unifying way to heal,” said cast member and Steinhardt student Kuhoo Verma.

The organization built their first theater in a refugee camp in Calais in 2015, followed by London and Paris.

ONWARD is entirely produced and performed by NYU students. It is directed by Casey Whyland, Gallatin senior and performer in Broadway’s Billy Elliot.

Verma says that the concert is a “celebration of our responsibility as human beings. We can and should and will take care of each other.”

ONWARD will be performed on April 15 at 7 p.m. in the Eisner & Lubin Auditorium in Kimmel.

BROADWAYWORLD: Photo Flash: First Look At Tisch New Theatre's ONWARD

BROADWAYWORLD: Photo Flash: First Look At Tisch New Theatre's ONWARD

BroadwayWorld

By  BWW News Desk

April 3, 2018

Get an exclusive first look at Tisch New Theatre's ONWARD, a concert to benefit Good Chance Theatre!

The evening will feature 11 New York University students, across multiple schools, performing songs ranging from musical theatre to pop and R&B. The concert will also premiere an original song written in honor of the event by student Kaila Wooten.

Good Chance Theatre is a UK-based non-profit that builds temporary theatres in areas where expression is stifled and where immigrant and local communities are struggling to integrate. They work to provide hope and promote freedom of expression, creativity, and dignity for all.

ONWARD is entirely produced, directed, designed, and performed by NYU students. Casey Whyland, of Broadway's Billy Elliot and a senior in the Gallatin school, directs and choreographs. When asked about the rehearsal process so far, 3-time Broadway veteran and Gallatin senior Andy Richardson said, "Getting to be part of an experience like this is thrilling. It's a different environment than a normal show but the talent is so vivid." Through ONWARD, the students of Tisch New Theatre hope to not only support Good Chance Theatre with a donation from the ticket sale proceeds but also to raise awareness of the selfless and vital role they play in the lives of those in need. For Steinhardt senior Kuhoo Verma, the concert is a "celebration of our responsibility as human beings. We can and should and will take care of each other."

ONWARD will be performed on April 15th at 7:00 PM in the Eisner & Lubin Auditorium within NYU's Kimmel Center for Student Life, located at 60 Washington Square Park South. For tickets and additional information, visit NYUTischNewTheatre.com.

Photos credit: James Kwitny. Style: Deijah M.V.

BROADWAYWORLD: Tisch New Theatre To Present ONWARD

BROADWAYWORLD: Tisch New Theatre To Present ONWARD

BroadwayWorld

By: BWW News Desk

March 30, 2017

Tisch New Theatre closes out their 10th Anniversary season with ONWARD, a concert to benefit Good Chance Theatre. The evening will feature 11 New York University students, across multiple schools, performing songs ranging from musical theatre to pop and R&B. The concert will also premiere an original song written in honor of the event by student Kaila Wooten.

Good Chance Theatre is a UK-based non-profit that builds temporary theatres in areas where expression is stifled and where immigrant and local communities are struggling to integrate. They work to provide hope, and promote freedom of expression, creativity, and dignity for all. Good Chance built its first theatre in a refugee and migrant camp in Calais in 2015 and since has expanded to London and Paris. According to cast member and Tisch freshman Gage Thomas, "Good Chance Theatre is a prime example of how the power of theatre can bring a group of people together. They allow these people who have no homes and have nothing but the things they brought with them to have a space to forget what is happening outside and just express themselves." For cast member and Steinhardt senior Kuhoo Verma, Good Chance is special because they "understand that expression in theatre is the most collaborative and unifying way to heal."

ONWARD is entirely produced, directed, designed, and performed by NYU students. Casey Whyland, of Broadway's Billy Elliot and a senior in the Gallatin school, directs and choreographs. When asked about the rehearsal process so far, 3-time Broadway veteran and Gallatin senior Andy Richardson said, "Getting to be part of an experience like this is thrilling. It's a different environment than a normal show but the talent is so vivid." Through ONWARD, the students of Tisch New Theatre hope to not only support Good Chance Theatre with a donation from the ticket sale proceeds but also to raise awareness of the selfless and vital role they play in the lives of those in need. For Kuhoo Verma, the concert is a "celebration of our responsibility as human beings. We can and should and will take care of each other."

ONWARD will be performed on April 15th at 7:00 PM in the Eisner & Lubin Auditorium within NYU's Kimmel Center for Student Life, located at 60 Washington Square Park South. For tickets and additional information, visit NYUTischNewTheatre.com.

Tisch New Theatre was formed in 2008 as a platform on which all students, regardless of area of study, can experience the theatre industry within NYU and New York City. TNT is committed to developing ambitious work intended to entertain, inspire, and unite the artistic efforts of the Tisch Community with the entire NYU student body.

TNT's production of ONWARD will feature the following: direction/choreography by Casey Whyland (Broadway's Billy Elliot, Annie national tour); music direction by Alexandra Crosby; lighting design by Cati Kalinoski; costume, hair, and make-up design by Deijah M. V.; production stage manager Charlie Saslow; production coordinator Basil Apostolo; general manager Nicole Crisci; marketing director Joey Mervis; producers Matthew Ko and Tim Sebastian.

The cast features: Alex Lugo, Andy Richardson (Broadway's Newsies, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Gypsy), Audrey Hobert, Beth Million, Daniel Youngelman, Gage Thomas, Jessica Kantorowitz, Julesy Flavelle, Kuhoo Verma (Berkley Rep's Monsoon Wedding), Michael Manzi, and Stephen Mellen.

For more information about Tisch New Theatre, visit www.NYUTischNewTheatre.com.

NYU NEWS: Tisch New Theatre Presents a New Approach

NYU NEWS: Tisch New Theatre Presents a New Approach

NYU NEWS
By Emma Hernando
November 7, 2017

Even with NYU’s progressive environment, it is rare to walk into a production meeting and be surrounded by women. While there have been pushes to increase inclusivity for women in theater, the Tisch New Theatre transformed that idea into a reality with its 10th anniversary production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” TNT’s return to the NYU community represents once again the opportunity to become involved in high-quality productions in real world environments, while also providing a space for students to make mistakes and learn from them.

Upon walking into SoHo Playhouse, where TNT’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” is currently running, it is easy to forget that TNT is a student-run organization. From the extremely high production value of the show to its enviable location in an Off-Broadway theater, there is very little that differentiates TNT from a professional theatre company. Furthermore, TNT has succeeded where other theater companies have failed. By placing women who are experts in their fields at the helm of the production, TNT is breaking the glass ceiling that exists within production and artistic teams. 

I was thrilled at the opportunity to speak with some of these amazing women. As I sat down with director, choreographer and Gallatin junior Casey Whyland, musical director and Gallatin junior Alex Crosby, as well as the set design and stage management team, my main goal was to illuminate what differentiates this team from teams in which women are the minority or are absent altogether. Most of the cast agreed that the subject material of “Little Shop of Horrors” was a differentiating factor in itself. In a show where the main female character, Audrey, experiences domestic abuse — written off as an afterthought — the artistic team grappled with how to make her struggle apparent and define her as more than just a “blond bimbo.”

“We talked about it with scenic, costumes, props — it became a different approach,” Whyland said. “Just because she’s a woman in the ‘60s why does that automatically mean that she needs to be blonde and ditzy? There’s nothing wrong with that portrayal, but we wanted to do something different to create a new dynamic.” 

Team members agreed they attempted to depict the concept of domestic abuse in a more nuanced way than was done other productions. Crosby added she noticed a different reaction as a result of this.

“[In most productions] it’s not really an event that [Audrey is] thrown around by Orin,” Crosby said. “It’s a nonevent and people usually dismiss it because he’s just like the funny dentist who’s crazy. [Whyland] has made a deliberate point to show that this is a man who is absolutely taking advantage of a woman and she is rendered powerless because he just has no sense of respect for her as a person. And it’s sad.”

Whyland said her ability to develop the character of Audrey was only made possible because the team was so understanding of its importance. Without the support of actors willing to undertake this topic and the design team, portraying such a sensitive topic would have been impossible.

For the most part, however, the team believed that gender was irrelevant.

“I don’t think about my gender while doing my work,” Crosby said. “It’s much more about — this is what I care about and this is what my focus is going into. When I’m surrounded by women I do feel more comfortable to do my work, the fact that I am a woman doesn’t have anything to do with it.”

The company seems to foster a spirit of both self-motivation and collaboration. The 75 individuals working on “Little Shop of Horrors” had no other reason to be there besides their desire learn and put on a quality show. Stage manager and Tisch sophomore Kate Wellhofer praised these qualities. 

“I have never been a part of a show that is so communicative and so collaborative,” Wellhofer said. “Every single day I am literally in awe of how incredible communication is between every department. I mean just top to bottom you know everything going on in every department and that’s so helpful because it can inform your work.”

Despite the professional quality of its productions, what clarifies TNT’s status as a collegiate club is the learning environment fostered by the company that may not be accessible after college. Wellhofer said this might be the most rewarding part of participating in TNT. 

“TNT provides space for you to fail and have to figure out how to make it work after that,” Wellhofer said..

Production manager and Steinhardt senior Emily Tang agreed, saying, “The problem with TNT is that you can’t do something right. There’s no one to tell you you’re doing something right, you just gotta give it your all, which is terrifying but also the best motivation.”

The fact that this environment encourages people to speak up and learn from their mistakes, makes the team work in a unique way. In a world where women in leadership positions are often labeled as bossy or aggressive, TNT is a refreshing space that allowed women to overcome these stereotypes and get the job done. 

“I”m very against confrontation, so this has been a good experience because I have learned to communicate my needs,” scenic designer and Tisch senior Kassidy Curtis-Lugo said. “Navigating that with our peers and our friends is one thing [but now we are] able to apply that to once we move out into the real world.”

TNT is a unique place where this blend of discovery and professionalism can occur, which is essential not only to the NYU community, but to the professional theater world that these women are about to step into.

“I truly think that every woman sitting in here is a natural leader, we have these positions [and] are trusted with these jobs because we feel comfortable being in these positions where we delegate and make these decisions,” associate scenic director and Tisch junior Taylor Friel said. I think that’s really important. We are naturally strong, amazing women [who have] that natural power.”

NYU NEWS: Finding Humanity in the Horrors

NYU NEWS: Finding Humanity in the Horrors

NYU NEWS
By Emma Hernando
November 6, 2017

Lights up on a seemingly mundane florist in downtown New York. As the Tisch New Theatre’s interpretation of “Little Shop of Horrors” begins, there is very little to indicate the incredible and insane path that the play will take over the next two hours. A Greek chorus of street urchins sets the scene with an ironically vivid and jazzy song about how bad it is to live where they do. The rest of the show mirrors the irony of its opening number, and it is as zany as it is unpredictable. A Broadway classic, the musical depicts the unrequited love story between Seymour and Audrey who work together at a florist’s shop. Bizarre obstacles stand between them: Seymour’s lack of confidence, Audrey’s sadistic dentist boyfriend and an alien plant that feeds on blood. 

Carried by characters that are carefully curated to be both lovable and problematic, the show tells a comedic story that still manages to be truthful. Beyond asking you to suspend your disbelief, it requires you to suspend your judgement as you hear their stories and see their behavior justified before your eyes. The evil dentist, Orin (Ray Fanara), can be seen as the secondary antagonist in his blatant cruelty. However, in his hilariously extreme behavior, you can still sense the humanity and tragedy within him. While not an excuse for his behavior, these qualities make the character more dynamic than if he were just another stereotypical villain.

As he reluctantly begins to feed the plant his own blood, it’s easy to see that Seymour’s — played by Steinhardt senior Daniel Youngelman — only way to move up in the world is by sacrificing his humanity and morals to achieve love and success. The setting itself demands intense sacrifices from the characters, leading them all to do heinous things. TNT’s creative team, most notably Gallatin senior Casey Whyland, who directed and choreographed the show, brings out true social commentary from this quirky musical.

The character of Audrey, played by Tisch sophomore Julesy Flavelle, is the most brilliant example of sacrifice in this play. In a show that brings nonstop laughter, Flavelle’s intensely human interpretation of Audrey will bring you to tears. She taps into the character by discovering her primary driving force: we all will risk anything for what we love. Even if we cannot truly achieve real love, we will find a way to make it exist at least in our imaginations.

Due to the show’s intimate setting in the SoHo Playhouse, you truly feel as if you are part of the story. The dynamic set in a small space functions the same way a complex proscenium arch would, and upon walking into the theater, you are instantly brought into the world of the musical. While most of the technical aspects of the show flourished despite the small space — Audrey II, the alien plant, seemed much bigger and more imposing — in some cases it posed a struggle for the actors in terms of choreography.

Overall, the show’s execution went above and beyond the story that is so known and loved by many. The humanity lies in the absurdity, which makes it more than just a classic comedy. While a blend of both tragedy and comedy is essential in a show like “Little Shop of Horrors,” this is characteristic of a theater company with such a long history of producing student work that appears professional. This production breathes life into otherwise stereotypical comedic characters. Rather than looking at Seymour, Audrey and Mr. Mushnik and seeing them as a group of fools haphazardly trying to succeed in a doomed situation, you see them as people who have known nothing but poverty their entire lives and simply seek to find their own personal “somewhere that’s green.”

NYU NEWS: Tisch Reimagines ‘Little Shop’

NYU NEWS: Tisch Reimagines ‘Little Shop’

NYU NEWS
By Carter Glace
November 6, 2017

“Little Shop of Horrors” exists in that sweet spot where even if one has not watched either the off-Broadway show, the Broadway show or the iconic film, it has a distinct signature style and tone that everyone is familiar with. The campy horror science-fiction comedy inspired by two pulpy sci-fi novels has brought signature villains, songs and iconography into our musical canon. Even though I had yet to see the showbefore this Halloween, I knew almost everything about it due to cultural osmosis. 

But with the ubiquity comes a challenge: how does one adapt a work that is so ingrained in pop culture? When there is such a clear definition of what “Little Shop” is, how do you make it your own? How do you distill what is most important to the property while still creating something new? 

This is the key question the show’s director and choreographer, Casey Whyland, and Julesy Flavelle — who portrays the main character’s love interest, Audrey — faced when tackling an adaptation with such strange source material.

The keyword both artists used when discussing their work was “honest:” They believed that as silly and outlandish as the material was, it was important to ground and flesh out the more arch, campy world of the show. 

“I wanted to remain honest and true to what ‘Little Shop’ is known for, yet still be able to create characters and various journeys that were unique to the individuals involved in this production,” Whyland said. “We all agreed that while the show itself is a silly comedy and has more campy aspects to it, we wanted to find a point where we rooted it in the honesty of the circumstances these characters were in, in this time, and then build from there.” 

Whyland also said the production team wanted to figure out how to use their present-day experiences to inform a story that takes place in the 1960s.

One of the central areas where this thesis of honest was tested seems to be in the character Audrey. Played by Ellen Greene in both the original off-Broadway show and the film, she captures the spirit of the show with her raspy voice, troubled-girl-saved arc and tight leopard print clothes.

Discussing her version of the character, Flavelle said that she and Casey agreed that “Ms. Greene really did create the iconic character. Audrey has such an opportunity to be something more as a character,” and that in the current climate, the team “could really bring the audience in and make them consider the reality of the pain behind Audrey’s character, circumstance, and relationships … I hope that people are as moved as I have been by this really tragic story.”

When adapting a beloved work, an artist faces roughly one million questions. Everything from explicit text to subtext to imagery, minor characters and pacing all must be placed under a microscope as the creator asks, “What do I want to say with this work?” Based on my brief discussions with two of the most creative minds of the show, it seems like the team of “Little Shop of Horrors” has a clear, distinct vision of the classic, Using the arch, science fiction and horror to talk about our world today.

VERGE CAMPUS: Tisch New Theatre’s “Little Shop of Horrors”

VERGE CAMPUS: Tisch New Theatre’s “Little Shop of Horrors”

VERGE CAMPUS
By James Manso
November 3, 2017

It is difficult to take classic pieces of art and rework them in an enriching and satisfying way. How does one make it fresh, while maintaining the essence of the original? Which aspects of the character are worth keeping, and which are better left behind? Where is the line drawn between a brilliant reiteration, or a disrespectful knock-off? The key, as I found out after watching Tisch New Theatre‘s Little Shop of Horrors, lies in the thoroughness of a production.

This brilliant, complex take on an otherwise caricatured play spared no detail (I couldn’t stop noticing that the small wall clock, in the background of the set, was adjusted to show the appropriate times of day for each scene that took place).

Even more thorough than the inventive costumes and set design were the portrayals of these classic characters. While I would typically say the cast did an unbelievable job, they did not – it is an actor’s mission to be believable to the audience, to let their spectators assume the characters are not actually characters, but perhaps alter-egos, and that is what this cast had achieved.

The female lead, Julesy Flavelle – who sparkled from the moment she stepped onstage – delivered an incredibly nuanced portrayal of Audrey: soft-spoken when lashed out at, and affirmative when clinging to her convictions. This flavor of realism was balanced out by the ever-quivering browline of Daniel Youngelman, who played the male lead, Seymour.

The production had incredibly tense, serious moments – the various deaths, and the subsequent turmoil Seymour faces for his complicity in them, are heightening. The final deaths of the show, and the following number, take a turn for the kitschy; bringing the show to a full-circle, warm-hearted end, in spite of the traditional doom-and-gloom dénouement.

Each actor brought their personalities onstage with them, creating an eclectic, loud, heartbreaking and entertaining dynamic for just over two hours. The tiny theatre in which it was performed practically burst at the seams from the constant belting, yelling, crying, and laughing, only rendering the experience that much more intimate.

Tisch New Theatre‘s production of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is playing at the Soho Playhouse until November 5th. Tickets are available here.

NYU LOCAL: TNT’s “Little Shop of Horrors” Is Scary Fun

NYU LOCAL: TNT’s “Little Shop of Horrors” Is Scary Fun

NYU LOCAL
By Zach Steinberg
November 3, 2017

New York University’s Tisch New Theatre produced a hilarious horror romp with Alan Menken’s “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Tisch New Theater’s production of the Alan Menken genre bending musical is an ambitious, good time at the theater and it runs through the weekend at the SoHo Playhouse.

For those who have never heard of Little Shop of Horrors, it’s about a pushover nice-guy named Seymor (Daniel Youngelman), who works in a flower shop with his greedy boss, Mr. Mushnik (Patrick Martini), while secretly crushing on his sweet blonde co-worker, Audrey (Julesy Flavelle). With that setup, floral musical comedy ensues. Oh, and I almost forgot: there’s a talking plant from outer space called Audrey II with equal tastes for R&B and human blood.

Sounds over the top? That’s the fun of it.

The most impressive part about TNT’s Little Shop of Horrors is that it is entirely NYU student produced. Little Shop is a true spectacle with a large cast, iconic Menken musical numbers, and a giant puppet. When this production works, it really works. The entire cast from across NYU schools is super talented with a few standouts.

Daniel Youngelman makes Seymore’s transition from “meek-nerd” to “murderous meek-nerd” equal parts believable, funny, and tragic, especially shining in the intense second act. I know this may come as a shock considering he’s a senior in Steinhardt Vocal Performance, but Youngelman can definitely sing. So can the whole cast! Julesy Flavelle plays Audrey with appropriate timid sweetness. Her big number “Somewhere That’s Green” and her shared ballad with Youngelman “Suddenly, Seymore” are the two best moments of production.

Patrick Martini and Ray Fanara are both hysterical as Mr. Mushnik and Orin Scrivello respectively. Fanara particularly chews his flashy role as the leather-clad, nitro-addicted dentist/sadist. He deservedly earns a few of the production’s biggest laughs, even if some of his character’s domestic abuse content plays a little off for comedy in 2017. The rest of the ensemble fills out nicely, with particular props thrown towards Chloe Troast, whose physicality and sharp comic timing stole every scene she made an appearance in.

Finally, we need to address the giant man eating plant in the room. Honestly, the evolution of Audrey II and it’s puppeteering took a moment for my brain to settle into, but by the end of the first act, I totally bought into the reality. This is in no small part thanks to RJ Christian who voices the plant with a deep soulful tenor that is deliciously smooth and terrifying all at once. By the time Audrey II is fully grown and dueting with Seymore about blood lust, you’ll be dancing in your seat.

Considering the ambition of the production, it’s understandable that it lacks technical polish in places. There were a some sound hiccups throughout, a few botched notes here and there, and given the small space, actors would occasionally bump into each other at moments of high clutter. But these nitpicks are easily forgivable and never distracting. At its core, Little Shop of Horrors is a riff on campy B-list science fiction, so even when the production got janky, it was always charming.

Overall, TNT’s Little Shop of Horror’s is a well-produced, silly, horror romp with a good heart and reliably catchy Menken tunes sung by some impressive voices. Go this weekend, check it out, and support the NYU community. Good luck getting “Little shop, little shop of horrors ” out of your head. Trust me, it’ll be in there until the day sentient plants take over the Earth.

STARR STREET MEDIA: Tisch New Theatre Presents "Little Shop of Horrors"

STARR STREET MEDIA: Tisch New Theatre Presents "Little Shop of Horrors"

STARR STREET MEDIA
By Derrick Gallegos
November 1, 2017

Tisch New Theatre's Little Shop of Horrors: a spooky, urban, modern reinvention of the original 2003 Broadway production with all the hilarity and rambunctiousness still intact. The show, set in SoHo Playhouse's 199-seat Off-Broadway theatre, is as charming as ever, its stellar cast working in a small space making every moment intimate and engaging under the direction of Casey Whyland. The actors take advantage of every crevice and corner, performing with the energy and talent one expects from a Broadway production. Despite spatial limitations, Casey's tight direction, along with her sharp and contained choreography, result in an exciting piece of theater that keeps the audience on their toes.

Little Shop of Horrors is a classic underdog story with a sinister twist. The show follows Seymour (Daniel Youngelman), an orphan under the care of Mr. Mushnik (Patrick Martini) as he uses a unique flytrap plant, Audrey II (RJ Christian), named after his unrequited-love-interest Audrey (Julesy Flavelle), to bolster his career as a flourishing botanist. But, there’s a catch: Audrey II needs flesh and blood to grow, specifically human flesh and blood.

Youngelman is a force to be reckoned with. With a voice like butter, every note he sings is clear, controlled, and perfectly punctuated. A quirky and delightfully awkward Seymour, one can't help but empathize with the orphaned boy, raised to work at Mushnik's Skid Row Florists, a wilting plant shop in the dark slums of a decaying city. But Youngelman’s Seymour would be nothing without his equally talented counterpart: Audrey.

Flavelle is emotionally devastating. As she sings of her dreams of a white-picket fence far from Skid Row in “Somewhere That's Green,” her soft, tender voice brings the room to a standstill. I found myself tearing up as she held back all the pain and regret, her eyes slowly watering, her voice breaking as deeply as her heart. This vulnerability meets a contrasted ferocity towards the end of "Suddenly Seymour", simultaneously showcasing Flevelle’s flexibility and empowering her character.

Audrey’s name child, Audrey II, enjoys perfect encapsulation through RJ Christian’s low, raspy vocal range, his intimidating performance as The Killer Fly-Trap conveying playfulness and ease, yet never wavering its threatening nature.

Ray Fanara plays a menacing and subtly sexual Orin Scrivello… DDS. His realistic, Nitrous Oxide induced cackling, coupled with sporadic, violent outbursts, make for an utterly unpredictable villain that leaves the audience ambivalent and cautious, his laughter just as hair-raising as it is contagious.

Martini's comedic timing is entirely on point. His lines flow out so naturally that his honest reactions to the show’s ridiculous premise result in side-splitting laughter. His show-stopping duet with Youngelman, “Mushnik and Son,” takes brilliant advantage of the space as both tango along the cluttered flower shop, the audience roaring at every line.

The rest of the cast was just as phenomenal: Alex Lugo, Tyaela Nieves, and Kaila Wooten (Doo-Wop Girls) provide pizzazz with their tight harmonies, sharp movement, and hilariously distinct personalities. Chloe Troast's (Ensemble) unbelievable character work as she switches from one persona to the next with ease earns her constant applause from the audience, and Andy Richardson's (Ensemble/Dance Captain) amazing cameos wrapping up the show’s tight staging.

The set and lighting sculpt the macabre comedic script into an immersive haunted house. The flower shop in the center revolves, creating several distinctive locations such as the transitory back alley, the dramatically varied dentist's office, and of course, Mushnik's iconic shop.

Tisch New Theatre's Little Shop of Horrors makes for a fantastic Halloween show, filled with incredible talent and gorgeous aesthetics, which left me both delighted and satiated. Get tickets before they sell out!

BroadwayBox: Get a First Look at NYU Tisch New Theatre Production of Little Shop of Horrors

BroadwayBox: Get a First Look at NYU Tisch New Theatre Production of Little Shop of Horrors

The beloved musical Little Shop of Horrors returns downtown thanks to the exciting new NYU Tisch New Theatre production running October 31-November 5 at off-Broadway's SoHo Playhouse. Any excuse for a night with Seymour, Audrey, Audrey II, and that incredible Menken/Ashman score is truly welcome. Scroll on to get a first look at the stars of Little Shop and their Richard Aaron costumes in these stunning Emilio Madrid-Kuser portraits shot from Audrey II's POV.

WNYU RADIO: Tisch Takes A Fresh Look At Little Shop of Horrors

WNYU RADIO: Tisch Takes A Fresh Look At Little Shop of Horrors

WNYU RADIO
By Nikki Cruz

The Tisch New Theatre’s production of Little Shop of Horror takes a fresh look at a classic show. Reporter Nikki Cruz interviewed the director, Casey Whyland, and cast members, Daniel Youngelman and Patrick Martini, to find out more.

Campus Influencer: TNT's Daniel Youngelman

Campus Influencer: TNT's Daniel Youngelman

VERGE CAMPUS
By James Manso

Meet Daniel Youngelman, the male lead in Tisch New Theatre’s latest production, ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’

“It’s interesting that my trajectory has been, especially in college, these more aggressive male roles,” Steinhardt senior Daniel Youngelman said. “I definitely don’t see myself as that type of person. I’m quite shy, but I’ve been accessing these more complex, more dominant characters recently.”

Youngelman plays the male lead in Tisch New Theatre‘s ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ Seymour: the typically helpless love interest and martyr. Now, Youngelman is going back to his past. “I’ve played Seymour before, six years ago. I thought it would be very interesting to come back and look at the role in a new light.”

And that he is. Eschewing Seymour’s inflated incompetence, Youngelman is looking more at the facts of his circumstances. “This production is about really, really looking at these characters microscopically. I think it’s about taking a second glance at what it means to be a working man, specifically, a poor man. Seymour was an orphan. I think it’s sort of about exploring the up-and-coming, working class person.”

The final result has been a thoughtful, insightful, modern portrayal of an otherwise cliché role, more dedicated to the restrictions on the character than the larger-than-life plotline (which is filled with abusive bad guys and plants with human-sized appetites, and the like). “This time, when I’ve talked with Casey [Whyland] and Julesy [Flavelle], we’re rooting it much more in the humane aspects of the characters and of the show. It’s about a man-eating plant. We don’t need to go this full-forced, stereotypical version or these cartoon-ized characters,” he said.

For the Vocal Performance senior, revisiting an old role has served his comprehension of character development – and how that carries over into his craft – now. Bouncing from Little Shop, to Hairspray, more musicals, and back to Little Shop, has invited time for Youngelman to reflect on his trajectory post-graduation “[Seymour is] not the kitschy role. To me, that’s on the easier side. It’s about challenge, for me. Moving through it into Seymour, I’m getting to look at another side of what it means to be an actor, and the different facets and tools that we can access.”

Tisch New Theatre‘s production of ‘Little Shop of Horrors is playing at the Soho Playhouse from October 31st to November 5th. Tickets are available here.