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Kyle LaGrutta, as Seymour, and Mallory Schlossberg, as Audrey, star with "Audrey II" in Little Shop of Horrors!. The Theatre Department production continues through Nov. 21 at the Fine Arts Building's Watters Theater..
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
‘Little Shop of Horrors!’ to bloom on Theatre stage
November 11, 2010Tweet
The cult-classic musical Little Shop of Horrors! has always had a special appeal to senior Mallory Schlossberg.
“When I was 9 years old, I knew that I wanted to be Audrey when I grew up,” she said. “I made my little sister learn the harmonies to Suddenly, Seymour.”
All grown up, Schlossberg will walk on to the Watters Theater stage as Audrey, the flower shop employee who is the secret crush of co-worker Seymour Krelborn.
Little Shop of Horrors!, a dark comedy musical about Seymour and his human flesh-eating plant, is the second “Audience Choice” production of the Theatre Department’s 2010-11 season. It will be staged at 8 p.m. Nov. 12-13 and 19-20 and at 2 p.m. Nov. 14 and 21, with a talkback session after the Nov. 14 performance. (Tickets are $18, general admission; $16, faculty/staff/seniors; and $10, students. Call 607-777-ARTS).
“It’s been like a dream fulfilled in my senior year to work on this role,” Schlossberg said. “The whole process has been rewarding and fun.”
Little Shop of Horrors! also has been a lure for Kyle LaGrutta, who plays Seymour, and director Dennis Courtney.
LaGrutta took part in a campus production during the first semester of his freshman year, but the senior said he never has had the time to do more on the theater stage.
“I love this show,” he said. “I never saw the movie, but I saw the show several years ago and knew if I ever had the chance to try out for it, I would not pass it up. … I feel most comfortable when I’m on stage and I’ve been dancing for the last couple of years. But I put that aside this semester because this is something I really wanted to do.”
Directing Little Shop of Horrors! is something Courtney has always wanted to do. He jumped at the opportunity when the Theatre Department offered him the position as the show’s guest director.
Based in New York City, Courtney has been the director/choreographer of more than 150 stage productions and recently staged the off-Broadway production of Civil War Voices. He also has appeared as a performer in shows such as Peter Pan and Grease and even directed an episode of TV’s Perfect Strangers.
Courtney’s Little Shop remains true to the show’s template because “it works and has been a hit for so long,” he said. Based on Roger Corman’s 1960 film, the musical version was launched in 1982 and began a long run both off and on Broadway. The musical was made into a movie in 1986 that starred Rick Moranis as Seymour, Ellen Greene as Audrey and Steve Martin as Audrey’s abusive dentist boyfriend, Orin.
Courtney stressed that the Theatre Department’s production is “not an imitation of anything you’ve seen.”
“It’s clearly our version of the show,” he said. “I think when something is as well written and structured as this show is, you just truthfully tell the story, have fun with it and allow the cast to do what they do best.
“What I wanted to do at all costs was to avoid doing productions that I’ve seen on the college level where people are caricatures,” he said. “All the girls are trying to be Ellen Greene and all the boys are trying to be Rick Moranis. When we were auditioning, I looked for people who were first and foremost good actors and would make the roles their own.”
An example is graduate student Steven Tarnow, who plays Orin and also provides the “funk-soul” voice of Seymour’s plant named Audrey II. Like LaGrutta, Tarnow had never seen the movie adaptation – and was less interested in watching it after gaining the roles.
“As soon as I was cast, my friends said, ‘Have you seen Steve Martin do this? You’ve got to YouTube it!’” he said. “I was like ‘No. No. No. No.’ I want to approach the text and music with a fresh set of eyes and ears.”
“Our Steve is not Steve Martin, but he’s equally demented and fantastic,” Courtney added.
Even Schlossberg took a break from her fandom, removing the Little Shop soundtrack from her iPod.
“I didn’t want to be tempted to listen to it,” she said. “I had to make everything my own and start from scratch.”
The cast members have faced other challenges, such as dealing with the demands of singing and acting daily while also taking classes, Schlossberg said. And then there is the interaction with Audrey II, a puppet that continues to grow during the show and requires four different “plant operators.”
“You really have to commit and believe that it is a plant that could eat you,” Schlossberg said to the laughter of the others.
Little Shop of Horrors! also features an all-student rock orchestra (guitars, bass, drums, piano, synthesizer) performing music that Courtney called “the emotional voice of the show.”
“It’s the best of doo-wop, Motown, R&B and rock,” he said. “It’s perfection.”
Little Shop of Horrors! is a more than just a dark comedy with snappy tunes, Courtney and the cast members said. Seymour’s fame grows as Audrey II grows – and morality questions arise.
“Our show says to the audience: ‘How far would you go to get what you want in life? When we are all alone in our conscience, how far would you go?’” Courtney said. “That’s what Little Shop says – it doesn’t say it on the front banner.
“If the message of the show was blatant, the audience wouldn’t stay. Nobody likes to be preached to. This is like ‘A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.’ It’s fun.”