I was really glad to be able to attend the Shakopee High School Drama Club’s amazing production of “Little Shop of Horrors” last Friday. Until about two weeks before the show dates, the cast and crew didn’t know if they would be allowed to host a live audience or have to perform the musical virtually.

Fortunately, people were able to attend for a more immerse experience. After the show, I asked a few cast members if they were excited to have people in the seats, and the answer was a resounding yes. It’s best for everyone. As an audience member, I like feeling the energy of the actors on the stage and hearing the live music from the pit orchestra. Some cast members told me they liked hearing the in-person audience laugh, offer applause, and at the end, deliver a standing ovation.

I enjoy the Drama Club’s productions every year, whether it’s a Shakespeare play, a one-act play, or my favorite, a musical. Like some high school sports teams, theater was on a hiatus due to the pandemic. It’s great to not only have the Drama Club back in action, but also be able to get a seat to see the students once again deliver a phenomenal show.

Every year, I’m amazed and impressed with the talent in our high school, from the stellar singing, dancing, acting, and choreography to the incredible musicianship of the band to the craftsmanship of the sets and costumes. It takes a lot of rehearsal time and dedication to deliver top-tier performances every year. The students spend a lot of time together, which is why the Drama Club is known for being such a tight-knit and supportive group.

I’m always struck with how much fun the students seem to have on stage. If they’re nervous, they don’t show it. They are clearly enjoying themselves, and that transcends to the audience. I also like that after each performance, the actors come out to the lobby to pose for pictures and interact with the crowd.

The theater community will certainly miss director Thom Amundsen, who is taking his final curtain call after 20 years. I’ve long admired Amundsen’s willingness to be edgy with his plays and to let the students showcase their diverse talents.

I caught up with Amundsen after Friday’s show to let him know how much I appreciate the plays and musicals he’s directed over the last two decades. In his typical fashion, he credited the students. He told me year after year, a talented group graduates, then other students step up to fill the roles and the success continues.

As Amundsen pointed out, Shakopee has a lot of high-energy, incredibly gifted students who bring the plays to life. Some of the theater students Amundsen has directed over the years have gone on to perform on stage in college.

“I have always believed that the student is the main focus of what we do on the Shakopee stage,” he wrote on his storyboard, calling his career with the Shakopee theater students “the opportunity of a lifetime.”

He will be missed, but I hope he enjoys his time fishing.

Brett Martin is a guest columnist who’s been a Shakopee resident for over 15 years.