When I was invited to drop in to the NQOMT Hall and check out the progress of the organisation’s next show, I’m going to be honest: I expected stress and disorganisation. But what greeted me instead was talent, wine and McDonald’s.
North Queensland Opera and Music Theatre are in the final month of rehearsals before they bring Little Shop of Horrors to the stage of the Civic Theatre in October. The cult classic follows the story of Seymour, an assistant at a flower shop with a crush on his colleague and a growing friendship with a blood-thirsty plant.
Promos for shows don’t usually begin until close to opening night. However the Little Shop cast has been performing in public for months now, with their final promotions wrapping up last weekend. And when I stopped by their rehearsal and saw the calibre of the performance that was already polished, it was clear why. Yes, there are a few characters still madly memorising pages of the script – but there’s others already performing in perfect synchronicity.
Meet the quintet.
Bree Hodsdon, Rachel Cairns, Cicely Baira, Morgan Eldridge and Jill Cason play a similar role in Little Shop as Sandy Neal in NQOMT’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat or the Muses in Disney’s take on Hercules.
While the five-piece in Hercules is to be expected, that’s not the case with Little Shop: the musical’s casting only requires a trio.
Little Shop of Horrors production manager Sasha Holmes said, while the role normally calls for just three ladies, Townsville’s talent pool was too saturated to stick to tradition.
“When it got to auditions, we actually couldn’t pick out of six girls. One dropped out very early because she was doing her Masters, and we were left with this gorgeous five,” Sasha said.
“I was sitting there while they were doing the dance audition and was already getting goosebumps. They were coming at me singing, blasting me – my hair’s literally flying back – and you just couldn’t split them. So we’ve gone against tradition and have a quintet.
“They’re the ones doing a majority of not just the singing, but dancing as well. It’s not a big dance show for much of the cast, but the quintet has to do quite a bit. This lot has had extra rehearsals and has been busting their balls to get to this stage.”
Quintet doo-wopper Rachel Cairns said the girls’ role was to help the audience follow the musical’s storyline.
“We really are the observers and narrators, the storytellers and the glue that binds everything together. Our reactions and our views on things steer a lot of the production and the characters, so we keep the audience in the loop so-to-speak in this strange horror story happening on stage,” Rachel said.
“Little Shop is a cult classic which has musical elements but also maintains a really dark undertone that permeates through all of it. Being part of the quintet is a really unique experience that you don’t get in a lot of roles.”
Quintet shoo-wopper Jill Cason agreed, and said it wasn’t a ‘typical’ role.
“I was really attracted to the idea of something that was different to the usual romantic lead – I never wanted Little Shop‘s Audrey. The quintet gets great singing, the best dancing, the best costumes and we get to enjoy the sisterhood we’ve formed,” said Jill.
“We’ve bonded, we’ve rehearsed so much and I think that experience is something you don’t get as much when you’re playing the lead. We have such a special unique experience with this show that I don’t think we would have gotten otherwise.”
Sitting down with the five ladies – ranging in experience from Rachel who has been a Townsville theatre regular for years to Bree Hodsdon who will be stepping into her first major role for Little Shop of Horrors – it is clear to see between sips of wine (for those old enough) and a lot of laughs that a strong bond had formed that ran deeper than the production.
“I think, being the youngest, I was scared to come into the whole group situation because I’d never been involved in anything like this before. But after a couple of months, we’ve really become like a family and I can call of these girls my friends and sisters,” Bree said.
Watching them rehearse, their unspoken connection was clear: on a stage packed with cast members, they sang in harmony; they moved in-sync; and they spoke as if they had been in these roles for years. While elements of Little Shop of Horrors still have work to do, the quintet could walk into the theatre today and blow you away.
While a musical version of Hercules is still only in planning stages, Townsville already has half a cast list ready tackle it. We have the five best Muses you’ll find.
Catch the quintet in NQOMT’s Little Shop of Horrors at the Townsville Civic Theatre from 11-14 October. Tickets are available from TicketShop.