Aphenomenal talent both on stage and behind the scenes and capable of juggling acting, the HSC and multiple commitments, 17-year-old Andrew Cockroft-Penman will direct the upcoming production of Little Shop of Horrors at Players Theatre…
Tell us a little about your background …
I’m 17 and studying for the HSC at Westport High. I moved to Port Macquarie with mum and my sister from Campbelltown in Sydney almost 10 years ago. Mum’s since set up her own business, William Street Garden Centre.
What led you to become interested in the theatre?
Basically, I entered our school’s talent quest, and a teacher told me about a play that was going on at the Players Theatre. I showed up for auditions, met director Eileen Kerr, who gave me a chance, and from then on I was addicted.
Since then I have really valued opportunities being made available − for youth in particular. Eileen shares this belief and has established the Hastings Youth Theatre Inc, which is a really admirable feat in itself.
What are some of the roles / productions you’ve been involved with in the past?
I’ve been an actor, backstage, stage manager and lighting guy through Players Theatre, Hastings Youth Theatre and Westport High. I’ve been involved in Christmas pantomimes, where the audience gets to talk back to the characters.
As challenging as it was to play the back end of a cow, I much prefer playing the dork − and being recognised by kids who generally believe that you are Muddles or Jingles is the best feeling.
I’ve also done some awesome musicals (most recently, Anthony in Sweeney Todd) and plays like the Popular Mechanicals, which was a real highlight for me, being around a great bunch of people. I learned a lot from the Director, Lance Thompson.
What’s been one of your most memorable moments on stage?
Way too many to name one. Every time something goes wrong or someone forgets a line, and you make it up as you go along. With Popular Mechanicals, we did a performance for the local high schools, and they were the best audience imaginable. I have never had so much fun falling in love with a broom, playing a shrub and attempting to do a ballet in a chicken suit.
You’re directing Players’ upcoming production of the Little Shop of Horrors. What’s it take to be a great director, do you think?
A good imagination and the motivation to make it happen, but ultimately the success of the show relies on the team of amazing dedicated costumes dressers, hair dressers, makeup artists, set designers, lighting and sound operators and a cast who share these same motivations.
How are you planning to make this production of such a classic tale just that little bit different to other productions?
I think we’re reviving Little Shop of Horrors in a completely new way. I don’t want to give too much away, but the show will involve a lot of ‘60s colour, hair, music and fashion.
The set and new talent and the way
we’re portraying the man eating
plant are all new. I think we’re going to give it more depth and be a bit more adventurous, while still maintaining the comedy, drama and suspense of this quirky musical.
What’s one of your favourite scenes from Little Shop of Horrors – and why?
Skid Row is one of my favourite songs in the show − I guess because it gives our full cast a chance to show off their vocal talents and create Skid Row, New York City, on the stage.
Who’s actually starring in this production – and what roles are they playing?
Little Shop of Horrors is lucky enough to have one of the strongest casts that has been seen or heard in a production in the local area in some time. Tim Gibbs portrays a sensational dorky hero, Seymour, having recently finished the role of Chris in TAC’s production of Miss Saigon and establishing Centre Stage Theatre Factory for Young Talent, Seymour is taken in and given a job by Mr Mushnik, at a run-down Florists. John Uncle returns to the stage as the grumpy florist shop owner and, as always, is guaranteed to entertain audiences.
Seymour spends his time dreaming of the shop assistant, Audrey. Kayla Maree Hoole has achieved a phenomenal feat in perfecting the role of Audrey and giving a flawless vocal and dramatic performance, all in her first ever musical production. She’s a truly brilliant young actress, whose talent is something to be admired.
Just after an eclipse of the sun, Seymour discovers a strange and interesting plant. While caring for the horticultural horror, Seymour discovers its unique appetite. Nathan Totton is yet another flawless talent. His rendition of Orin, aka the dentist, is both chilling and hilarious.
Julia Thornton, Erin Kershaw and Eden Puriri portray our stunning Doo-Wop girls. The three of them have the most incredible voices and energy on stage to be able to sing and dance the whole way through the show. Truly breathtaking, with Erin, no stranger to the Players spotlight, and Eden and Julia making their players debut.
We also welcome Krystle to the theatre, as Choreographer and Audrey II, coming from a very experienced background as principal of Studio 1 Performance Centre … but perhaps what gives the show the quality that it has is the company of 17 superb singers and actors who make up the rest of our cast.
Ultimately, what are you hoping audiences will take away from seeing Little Shop of horrors?
I just hope people have fun. The ‘60s Doo-Wop and Rock ’n’ Roll music will blow you away, with our live band conducted by Ben Simon and all our fantastic singers coached by our Musical Director, Ian Castle. Ian’s a first class performer himself and the best vocal coach on the Mid North Coast.
The show itself is funny, colourful, quirky and different and just fun, but also leaves you thinking about what’s really important.
Where to from here … what are your future ambitions?
As awesome as it would be to peruse the entertainment industry as a career, it’s just not stable when the demand for jobs is greater than the supply, so I’m looking at studying theatre next year and then doing a secondary teaching course on top to become a qualified performer/drama teacher.
Thanks Andrew. Best of luck with the show.
Little Shop of Horrors will play at Players Theatre from 16 September – 19 October. Contact the theatre on 6584 9473 for details.
Interview by Jo Atkins.