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The opportunity to perform with puppets has proved to be a unique experience for students involved in the Tosa West Trojan Players.

The theater group will be interacting on stage with four different puppets as part of its performance of "Little Shop of Horrors." Opening night is Friday, March 31 at Wauwatosa West for the tongue-in-cheek comedy that has become one of the longest-running off-Broadway shows.

The Trojan Players are directed by Adam Steffan, a Wauwatosa East and UW-Milwaukee graduate who has been directing plays at West for four years.

According to Steffan, in addition to the four puppets there are over 100 students involved in the play. The number of puppets is necessary because the plant, named Audrey II, continues to grow larger as the story unfolds.

"The puppet is the main character in the show," Steffan said. "Even though the performers inside the puppets are not seen, they are a vital part of the production."

A release from the school describes the play as a "sci-fi show about a man-eating plant and tells the story of floral assistant Seymour Krelborn, who stumbles across a new breed of plant he names Audrey II."

Steffan said the student actors who are playing the part of the puppet spent time being trained by a puppeteer. In addition, there is a separate actor who will be the voice of Audrey, and Steffan said coordinating Audrey's voice with the mouth movements of the puppet is important to the performance.

The description from the school release adds that the R&B-singing carnivore (Audrey II) promises unending fame and fortune to the down and out Krelborn as long as he keeps feeding it blood. Over time, Seymour discovers Audrey II's out-of-this-world origins and intent towards global domination.

"There are many wonderful things about the show, but my favorite is the contemporary music and stylized atmosphere that audiences will get to be a part of,” Steffan said. “After hundreds of hours of rehearsal and preparation, students are excited to share this production with the entire community, complete with a few exciting surprises and special effects."

Steffan said he when he is deciding what shows to produce for the Trojan Players, he thinks of three items: the students, the community and the budget.

"When the community takes notice, you get the feeling that we are creating something special," Steffan said. "The support of the Tosa school district and the community is important."

The Wauwatosa West Theatre Department was recently named a Top High School Theatre Program from Stage Directions Magazine, a theatrical publication which celebrates the theater industry on all levels of production and design. They have also represented the state of Wisconsin at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York City.

Other plays put on by the Players under Steffan's direction include "Cats," "A Chorus Line," "Our Town," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "Grease," "The Addams Family," "Jekyll and Hyde," and "The Wizard of Oz."

WHAT: "Little Shop of Horrors" presented by the Tosa West Players 

WHEN: 7 p.m. March 31, April 1, April 6, April 7 and April 8; and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 2. 

WHERE: Wauwatosa West High School, 11400 West Center St.

TICKET INFORMATION: Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $12 for senior citizens and students, $10 for students with Activity Pass and seniors who are Gold Pass holders, and $8 for children age 10 and under. Tickets are available online at www.trojanplayers.com, by phone at 414-773-3243 or at the door with cash or check.

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