Landers Theatre Stage Turns into a Little Shop of Horrors

May 20, 2016

Springfield LIttle Theatre's production of the musical "Little Shop of Horrors" starts a 3-week run at the Landers Theatre.
Credit (Poster design courtesy Springfield Little Theatre)

Springfield Little Theatre at the Landers, 311 E. Walnut, presents the stage musical version of "Little Shop of Horrors," with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken, based on the cult-classic Roger Corman film.  Opening tonight (Friday May 20th), the production continues through June 5th.

Corman's 1960 film may be most famous as a very early vehicle for Jack Nicholson (only his third film), who hilariously played the masochist in the dentist's chair.  But the musical version has had a life of its own since it first opened in 1982. Interestingly, says director Chyrel Miller, it did not have much of a Broadway run. She actually saw the original production in what she calls "a tiny, tiny theater down in (Greenwich) Village," from which she says it moved straight into regional theaters around the country.  Adds actor Seth Hunt, "there was an attempt at a revival (in 2003, for a Broadway production)... at eight million dollars.  For Little Shop that sounds a bit excessive!"  Its lack of success on Broadway is undoubtedly due to the small, intimate size of the show itself, a fact recognized by its playwright Howard Ashman.

Seth Hunt describes his role of Seymour Krelborn as a "shop boy who is as close to nothing as you can possibly get--left on the street to his own devices, he was taken in by Mushnick, who owns a flower shop. So (Seymour) sweeps up and keeps shop and takes the day-to-day abuse, of which there is plenty.  He survives on meatloaf and water. And he meets Audrey, who also works in the shop."  She's already in a relationship, albeit an abusive one, with the sadistic dentist, but finds herself attracted to the "super sweet Seymour," as Chyrel Miller describes him.

But Audrey meets an untimely demise... at the hands--leaves?--of a strange new species of houseplant discovered by Seymour. Seth Hunt notes that the sci-fi aspect of the original Roger Corman film is perhaps the "biggest aspect" of the musical as well. "There are lots of great (satirical) jabs at musical theater itself, and even the Faustian legend.  But all in all, it's a bad sci-fi movie, which makes it fun to play!" Seymour names the plant Audrey II "after the only other thing he's ever loved," says Seth.  Unfortunately, Audrey II develops into a foul-mouthed, R&B-singing monster that thrives--and grows gigantic--on a diet of human blood.  In fact, the plant is an alien from another world bent on world domination.

Chyrel Miller tells us there are in fact four Audrey IIs in Little Theatre's production, each representing a specific period in the evil plant's growth, and operated by several puppeteers.  The biggest Audrey is eight feet tall and four feet in diameter, and is manipulated from inside by Travis Taylor, a U.S. Army staff sergeant. "He's inside it working all of the second act," says Chyrel.   The interesting thing is that the Audrey props were all constructed locally, rather than being rented from the play's publisher.  "Beth Domann, the Artistic Director of Springfield Little Theatre, decided to have them local built--and so they are the property of the Landers Theatr and can be rented out to other places by the Landers," says Chyrel. She adds, "the plant does take the final curtain call, because it is the star of the show!" As a final broadside, she reminds us that "we are in planting season... be very careful!"

One major addition LT has made to the show is to add what Chyrel Miller calls "a larger vocal presence.  So we have created the 'Street People of Skid Row,'" which balloons the cast list from the original seven to twenty-two.  "And they meander in, find their way into the theater from out on Walnut Street to participate with the audience."

The performance schedule for Little Shop of Horrors is quite a bit different than the usual Little Theatre show, as they're attempting to accommodate the Memorial Day weekend.  After this first (conventional) weekend--Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:30pm--the show will run Tuesday through Friday of next week, May 24-27, all at 7:30pm, with no Saturday or Sunday performances on the 28th or 29th; then resuming Wednesday-Saturday June 1st-4th at 7:30 and a final show Sunday June 5th at 2:30pm.  (Also, unlike most musicals at LT, there are no Saturday matinees this time.) To purchase tickets, call the Landers box office at 869-1334 or visit www.springfieldlittletheatre.org.