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Mt. Pleasant Area students to stage 'Little Shop of Horrors'

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:02 p.m.
Kelly Vernon | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Benjamin Pimental, 16, who will portray the character Seymour in “Little Shop of Horrors,” the upcoming musical, is in costume with Audrey 2 recently at the Standard Union Art & Supply Co. in Mt. Pleasant Township.
Kelly Vernon | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Shawn Ronzio (left), co-owner of the Standard Union Art and Supply Co. in Mt. Pleasant Township, discusses with his son Griffin, 11, the placement of leaves on Audrey 2, a puppet which will appear in the upcoming production of “Little Shop of Horrors.'
Kelly Vernon | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Claire Dorman (left) and Meagan Tooley, co-owner of the Standard Union Art & Supply Co. in Mt. Pleasant Township, paint the two hand-held Audrey 2 puppets.

The Mt. Pleasant Area High School Drama Club will bring “Little Shop of Horrors” to the stage March 7 and 8.

The production was made possible by donations from the community.

Scottdale Bank and Trust made a sizable monetary contribution for materials needed to create the production's puppets.

The Standard Union Art & Supply Co., located along North Diamond Street in Mt. Pleasant Township, voluntarily created the four stages of puppets to portray “Audrey 2” — the man-eating plant — for the show.

Barb Rolla and Rich Bair, the show's co-directors, wanted the students involved to experience real, theatrical special effects, Bair said.

“The puppets will accomplish that for us. They have been produced with amazing color and detail,” Bair said.

In addition to the puppets, an orchestra will be a new feature with this production.

Bair said the one-set stage will require few scene changes, but that means the set has to be capture the interest the audience throughout the show. He added that he considers “Little Shop of Horrors” to be a dark comedy, and he would not recommend it for all ages.

Bair rated it as a PG musical, and leaves it up to parents to decide whether or not to take young children to the show. The production carries themes of domestic violence, drug abuse and disembodiment with a comedic twist, Bair said.

In the famed musical, Audrey 2 survives on blood, and that could be too frightening for younger spectators, he said.

The show required students to learn new songs and to portray characters on stage that they have never seen before, Bair said.

“It is the first time we are trying to sell a show based on our talents,” he said.

Bair said the puppets add a new dimension to what the stage demands.

“I'm very excited to be an actor, as well as a puppeteer, in this production,” said Ben Pimental, who will portray “Seymour” in the production.

“It will be the first time I operate a puppet during a performance, and it will be difficult, because my personality and movements have to stay separate from the movements and mannerisms of the puppet,” he said.

More than 1,000 pounds of clay were used to create the fourth stage of Audrey 2.

The Standard Union Art & Supply Co. created four stages of Audrey 2, said Shawn Ronzio, who co-owns the company with Meagan Tooley.

Of four puppets created by volunteers there, two are hand-held and two are larger versions, Ronzio said.

The fourth stage of Audrey 2 is made of lightweight materials, so despite the large size, it will be very manageable on stage, he added.

Along with members of the company's staff, volunteers making the elaborate puppets included some students and graduates of the Tom Savini's Special Make-up Effects Program, which offers students an associate's degree in specialized business, at the Douglas Education Center in Monessen.

Since 2007, Ronzio — a 1992 Connellsville Area graduate — has been employed full time as an instructor with the program established by Savini, a legendary special effects master whose work can be seen in many motion pictures including “Friday the 13th,” “Dawn of the Dead” and “Creepshow.”

“It was important for us to display our abilities to the local audience. The assembly process involved many artists donating their time and abilities,” Ronzio said. “It is a great service to help inspire the next generation with the gift of art and music.”

Savini program graduate Nathan Lucci was a constant force in the creation of every step of the process of making Audrey 2, Ronzio said.

Tooley and volunteer Clair Dorman worked on all aspects of the puppets, and added meticulous detail to the finished look of Audrey 2.

Ronzio said he and his crew plan to attend the production to see the puppets in action, and hear the audience's reaction to their creations.

“It is the greatest reward to the creators to see the story be told by the minds and energies behind the musical,” he said.

The company is storing the puppets in its warehouse due to the size and space they will occupy.

However, the school will have access to them at any time, and they will also be used during the drama club's upcoming performance at Night of the Stars at The Palace Theater in Greensburg.

“They (the company staff and volunteers) are amazing artists that love their profession so much that they decided to donate their time in order for us to have a great musical,” Bair said. “We cannot thank them enough for all their help.”

Little Shop of Horrors will be performed at 7 p.m. March 7 and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 8.

Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for students and admission is free to district seniors with a Viking Pass.

Tickets may be purchased in advance. They can be purchased from 5-7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and 10 a.m-noon Saturdays in the high school rotunda. The doors in the rear of the school will be open during those times.

Kelly Vernon is a staff reporter with Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-547-5722 or

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