When Ricardo Alvarado and Kelsey Stone founded a musical theatre company nearly four years ago, they never could have predicted what it would grow to be.
Ppl r Ppl Productions is an up-and-coming local theatre company with a lot of heart. Ever since their first year when they put on Rocky Horror Picture Show, they have continued to connect budding artists with an expanding audience through their performances of cult classics.
Alvarado recalls how Ppl r Ppl’s past productions — which have been held at Persephone Theatre’s Backstage Stage and seats roughly 150 people — were selling out before opening night.
“This year, we decided to go all out,” said Alvarado. “We have over 450 seats in the audience, so it’s a much bigger venture for us but I hope that people appreciate it and come out to have fun.”
What made Alvarado choose to produce and direct Little Shop of Horrors was how unforgettable the show was to him and how much it lends itself to Ppl r Ppl’s talents.
“There is a darkness to the show that sometimes when done by bigger companies … [has to be geared] towards more of a family audience,” Alvarado said. “So, they kind of have to [gloss over] that stuff, whereas we are leaning into some of those themes heavily.”
Part of what makes Ppl r Ppl Productions special is its dedication to entertaining audiences while employing and mentoring Saskatoon artists in meaningful ways.
“We hire as many professionals as we can and work with local performers,” Alvarado said. “There is only so much professional work in the city, so if we can give a person a contract here or there, that is kind of our goal.”
Although Ppl r Ppl Productions’ rapid growth makes Alvarado and Stone happy, it also means longer hours spent by the team dedicated to their shared passion for musical theatre. They both also work full time outside their company, making their local connections critical.
“Luckily we have been able to make these relationships with these other artists, and they just keep coming back and bringing more energy to the stage,” Alvarado said. “It may be our company but its really based on the people who come out to help us and even our audience.”
These artists include University of Saskatchewan undergraduate student Kieran Johnston. He plays the lead role of Seymour, the meek florist working at the Little Shop of Horrors. Johnston, who began acting in high school plays, says he jumped at the opportunity to audition for the part after his positive experience working for the company last year.
“Ricardo and Kelsey are both very attentive to the details, like every single thing needs to be sharp,” Johnston said. “So it’s very intense but I think the show’s turned out really well because in those artistic qualities we are definitely trying to raise the bar at every single rehearsal.”
Alvarado says he wants to go beyond people’s expectations of what musical theatre is and believes that there is something magical about how much value live performance and music adds to the story.
“I am confident that if you come and sit in the audience that you are going to have the best time and are going to leave wanting to come back the next evening,” Alvarado said.
Little Shop of Horrors is on at the Broadway Theatre Sept. 26 to 29. Tickets can be purchased through the Broadway Theatre Box Office at $35 for adults and $30 for students.
Noah Callaghan/ Staff Writer
Photo: Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor