Suddenly Seymour: Meadow Brook intern, understudy takes on lead role for opening weekend


Photo courtesy of Antonio Vettraino, taken by Luke Fontana

In the midst of folding roast beef for a company meal, Antonio Vettraino — Meadow Brook Theatre (MBT) intern and recent graduate from Oakland University’s musical theater program — received a call he would be replacing Tim Dolan in the lead role of Seymour for the opening weekend of “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Thankfully, despite Dolan’s sudden hospitalization, the role of Seymour would be in good hands.

“Antonio, my understudy — he’s incredible. He knows all the lines,” Dolan said in a TikTok life update. “I’ve heard such wonderful things. Thank God for understudies.”

Typically, Vettraino’s role in the show would be limited to distributing props backstage and the occasional company number, so stepping into Seymour’s track with a total of 11 of 17 songs and hardly any downtime is a tall order. Luckily, his position as an intern and love for the show set him up for a less stressful transition from stagehand to leading man.

As interns for MBT, Vettraino and his cohorts, Mary Magyari and Jessica Nichols, spend their time doing various tasks to keep the company afloat while simultaneously sitting in on rehearsals as swings — or understudies — who take over in the event that any given actor cannot go on.

On top of his duties as an intern, Vettraino was in the DIO’s production of “Rent,” which closed just days before “Little Shop” opened.

After it was officially confirmed that he’d be stepping into the role of Seymour, various members of the production team worked to get Vettraino ready in the span of 24 hours — including one full run-through of the show, a 45 minute conversation with the director and one combined hour to refine both vocals and choreography.

During the talkback on opening night, the production team glowed over their interns’ preparedness:

“Here, these interns are taking notes from day one,” Music Director Zachary Ryan said. “They don’t just come in and say, ‘well, I’m never going to play the role, so I just won’t do it.’ All three of them could go on tomorrow for any role in the show.”

On top of putting together all the production elements —blocking, choreography, music, etc. — and tending to his duties as an intern, Vettraino had to accelerate the process of actually fleshing out his own portrayal of Seymour.

“When you’re a swing, you’re focused on so many different tracks it’s hard to — until the moment actually comes — figure out intention, beats, tactics and how you want to perform this character or what you want this character to be,” Vettraino said. “The other huge challenge about Meadow Brook understudies is that we’re also interns. The whole first week of rehearsals, the interns weren’t even in [the rehearsal space] because we had to do light maintenance […]. We see a lot of rehearsal, but there are also a lot of things we miss.”

Regardless of the intensive process it took to cover for Dolan’s absence, Vettraino took on the job effortlessly. Watching him, you wouldn’t be able to tell he was an understudy. Vettraino is a true, natural talent.

Amid the chaos and excitement that is Vettraino taking on the Meadow Brook stage, our deepest sympathies go out to Tim Dolan, the original actor for Seymour. We wish him a safe and timely recovery, and we hope he returns to MBT by this publication.