Players Visits Little Shop of Horrors

by Bob McLaughlin and John Lieder
What is it about a story of a man-eating plant from outer space that speaks so deeply to our psyches? Perhaps we’ll find out this month when Community Players presents its second musical of the season, Howard Ashman and Alan Mencken’s Little Shop of Horrors.

The man-eating plant in question is Audrey II, an interesting and exotic plant found and cultivated by nebbishy florist’s assistant Seymour Krelborn. The plant brings Seymour attention, money, and love, but he soon learns that the price of success is high: to grow and thrive, the plant needs, first, human blood, then human body parts, then whole humans! Oh my gosh!

Little Shop first found expression in a 1960 Roger Corman movie that was filmed in two days and is noted for its campy humor and a cameo performance by Jack Nicholson as a masochistic dental patient. Ashman and Mencken’s musical adaptation opened Off-Off Broadway at the WPA Theater in 1982 and quickly transferred Off-Broadway, to Greenwich Village’s Orpheum Theater, where it ran five years, picking up many awards along the way, including the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical. The musical sets the film’s campiness to a score that pastiches early 1960s pop music. The result is a dissection of the myth of the American Dream, with a broad wink at the audience.

A successful film version of the musical was released in 1986, starring Rick Moranis as Seymour and, reprising her stage performance, Ellen Greene as Audrey (Seymour’s love interest and the plant’s namesake). In 2003, a Broadway production starred Hunter Foster and Kerry Butler and featured a technologically enhanced Audrey II who, during the finale, extended her head into the orchestra and up to the balcony, snapping at theatergoers. Just last year, a well-received concert production was staged as part of the Encores! series, with Jake Gyllenhaal as Seymour and Ellen Greene once again playing Audrey.

In our production, Chris Terven plays the hero, skid row orphan now flower shop employee, Seymour. Aimee Kerber co-stars as his fellow employee and love interest, Audrey. Scott Myers plays their boss, Mushnick. Alexander Knightwright is a gas (a happy gas) playing the sadistic dentist, Orin. Marita Landreth, Barbara Bouboutsis, and Fania Bourn are featured as the musical trio of Crystal, Ronnette, and Chiffon. Supporting them is an energetic ensemble which includes Wendi Ayers, Ben Fetters, Darlene Lloyd, Meghan McGuire, Erica O’Neill, and Jay Hartzler. And last, but certainly not least, is that remarkable flesh-eating plant Audrey II, which is voiced by the velvet tones of George Jackson III and given life by puppeteer Joe McCauley.

Marsha Weiss and Samantha Smith take on this hilarious musical as co-directors. Josh McCauley is Music Director, Bridgette Richard is Choreographer, and Jay Hartzler is Producer.

Rounding out the creative staff is Dan Virtue (Lighting Designer), Rich Plotkin (Sound Engineer), Opal Virtue (Costume Designer), Carol Plotkin and Dorothy Mundy (Props Designers), Judy Stroh (Stage Manager), Chris Terven (Scenic Design and Master Builder), Sara Schramm (House Manager), and Christian West (Set Crew).

The 1986 movie version of the musical received a PG-13 rating. Although it is doubtful any youngsters would leave the theater traumatized, because of the somewhat gruesome (although cartoonish) presentation of a flesh-eating plant with an insatiable appetite for human blood and a sadistic, abusive dentist, Little Shop of Horrors is not intended for very young people.

The show runs the last three weekends of March (March 10-13, 17-20 and 24-26) with a pay-what-you-can preview performance on Thursday, March 10. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday performances are 7:30 pm and Sunday performances are at 2:30 pm. Please note that there is no Sunday performance on the closing weekend because of Easter.

Photos by John Lieder