Choreographic Collaboration for a Three-Dimensional Viewing Experience: Starring Buffalo's Production of Little Shop of Horrors

Katherine Tomney and Melanie Kaisen

Dancers Tomney and Kaisen alongside fellow performer Dudney Joseph Jr. during a performance of Little Shop of Horrors for the Starring Buffalo Theater Company .

Dancers Tomney and Kaisen alongside fellow performer Dudney Joseph Jr. during a performance of Little Shop of Horrors

Undergraduate Student Project


Years before the phrase Little Shop of Horrors became popularized in the realm of cinema, the story of this alien plant was already making its way around the theater circuit. While in recent years this show has become heavily popularized on the theatrical stage, we bet you have never seen a rendition quite like ours.

Our names are Katie Tomney '20 and Melanie Kaisen '22 and we are UB Dance majors who had the opportunity to conduct choreographic and performative research for Starring Buffalo's Production of Little Shop of Horrors alongside our faculty mentor: Jeanne Fornarola. For this production, we were tasked with creating and performing choreography that specifically functioned as a form of storytelling and character development rather than simply adding spectacle to an already theatrical affair.

Dance has always been traditionally understood as being a background, flash element within theatrical productions. But as dancers, we know the communicative power associated with our art form.  We felt it was important to broaden the audience's understanding of the three-dimensional elements dance can add to a plot line. It was this interest that sparked our choreographic process of researching the ways in which we could balance plot enhancement with theatrical spectacle.


Dance as an element of theater has traditionally been perceived as an "enhancement of spectacle" for the overall viewing experience. In this collaborative project by Katie Tomney and Melanie Kaisen, the traditional role of theater dance is re-imagined in order to be viewed through a 21st century lens. After being selected by the Starring Buffalo Theater Company (directed by Drew Fornarola), Tomney and Kaisen alongside their mentor, Jeanne Fornarola, created choreography for the Fall 2019 production of Little Shop of Horrors, performed at Shea's 710 Main Theater. The choreographic task was to create one character out of three performers. The movement phrases advanced the plot as Audrey II, the man-eating plant, grew "appendages" that eventually engulfed the 60-member cast. Being a part of this production gave Tomney and Kaisen the opportunity to work alongside local and Broadway professionals to tell the story of this infamous killer plant.

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