APT’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ has singers, dancers, 150 pound plant

APT’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ has singers, dancers, 150 pound plant

By the time you see the full-grown Audrey II — massive at 150 pounds and brought to life by puppeteer Ethan Dilday with vocals by Rusty Turner — it will be just a delightful dessert for the full-blown smorgasbord of talent and tech served up by Arkansas Public Theatre in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

“This show has everything you could possibly want,” says Aaron Young, who returns to the APT stage as the “clumsy, meek, dorky, and apologetic” Seymour Krelborn. “Comedy, romance, heart-tugging moments, and of course a blood-thirsty plant!”

With music by Alan Menken (“Newsies,” “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Sister Act”) and lyrics by Howard Ashman (“Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin”), “Little Shop of Horrors” made its Broadway debut at the Virginia Theatre on Oct. 2, 2003, but it’s also one of the longest running Off-Broadway hits and a favorite of community theaters. New York Times critic Ben Brantley says it “has its own sly message for an era in which celebrity is regarded as a constitutional right: Embrace fame at your peril. It’s a killer.”

“Seymour was poor and in love with someone who he viewed as out of his league,” Young explains. “So when he found a shortcut to getting what he wanted — in the form of a man-eating plant — he couldn’t resist! Ultimately, things did not end the way he wanted them to.”

Here’s the premise, if you somehow don’t know it. Seymour works at a flower shop on Skid Row owned by Mr. Mushnik (Eric Andrew Vera in the APT production). But he’s also a budding scientist, trying to create interesting hybrid plants with the cuttings he buys from a Chinese merchant. During his recent visit, there’s a bolt of lightning, everything goes dark, and when the lights come back on, there’s a strange and unusual plant — some kind of relative of a Venus flytrap, he thinks — that is there where it wasn’t before. And he buys it.

Seymour names the plant Audrey II after his co-worker and crush, Audrey — who has plenty of weird problems of her own, most of them related to the sadistic dentist she’s dating.

“Audrey has lived a rough life,” actress Sarah Riedmueller says sympathetically. “She tries to find the joy in life even when things are hard. By focusing on her dreams, she finds her little spot of happiness.”

“Orin Scrivello, D.D.S. is not a nice guy. He’s definitely the villain of the first act, and kind of gets what’s coming to him,” says Jason LeCompte, making his APT stage debut after playing Dan Goodman in “Next to Normal” for Arts One Presents. “I am the total opposite of him! That’s why I thought it would be fun to play him” — and several other roles among the denizens of Skid Row.

Also living on Skid Row — and acting as the Greek chorus for “Little Shop” — are Chiffon (Brittany Tavernaro), Crystal (Anna Joie) and Ronnette (APT newcomer Binta Francis).

“‘Little Shop of Horrors’ has held a special place in my heart since I was a child,” says Francis, who appeared on the AOP stage as Esmerelda in “Hunchback of Notre Dame.” “It is the first movie musical I ever watched with my family. My siblings and I still bond over it to this day. It’s always been a dream of mine to be an urchin!”

“‘Little Shop’ is much like ‘Fiddler On the Roof’ or ‘The Music Man’ in that it seems to be a rite of passage for every actor,” says Joie, most recently on the APT stage in “Almost, Maine.” “Most other actors I know have done it at some point, and I thought maybe it was my turn. Now I see why — it’s such a fun show!

Crystal, she says, “is fiercely loyal, fiery, and doesn’t shy away from tough love or abrasiveness. You’ll see me in her protectiveness toward Audrey and her push for Seymour to be more sure of himself. Those track really well with how I relate to the people I care most about!

“I’m a rarity in community theater, in that I’m aiming for this to be my full-time career,” she adds. “Nevertheless, I do have a husband, two dogs and a cat, who have to make do without me every evening. Many weeks, we feel like we’re on split shifts, with me saying goodbye just as my husband returns from work, but we make it work.”

“You have to coordinate meals, pet care, your friends and family,” agrees Francis. “But the love we have for the art form and the craft makes those little sacrifices worth it.”

“The sacrifice of our free time is part of what makes community theater so wonderful,” adds Young. “We don’t spend all of this time working on a show because we’re paid to do so. We do it because we love it and are passionate about creating something special on stage.

“I hope audiences recognize how unbelievably talented our cast is, and realize how much work it took to bring these beloved characters to life,” he says. “More than anything else, I want the audience to leave with a smile on their face having been entertained.”


‘Little Shop of Horrors’

WHEN — 8 p.m. Feb. 10-11; 2 p.m. Feb. 12; again Feb. 6-19, 23-26

WHERE — Arkansas Public Theatre at the Victory in downtown Rogers

COST — $25-$55

INFO — 631-8988 or arkansaspublictheatre.org/tickets



Meet The Cast

Ever wonder where actors come from? Here are the magic moments for four of the “Little Shop of Horrors” cast.

“I’ve always loved singing and performing. I don’t know about one particular moment, but I do remember watching ‘Cats’ on VHS as a young kid and dancing along in my living room. I wasn’t in my first musical until college, but I was hooked from then on.” — Aaron Young, who is a senior category advisor for Procter & Gamble

“The moment I realized I loved theater was when ‘Spring Awakening’ came out on Broadway. I never got to see it live, but when I saw the videos of the show, I realized what theater was capable of. I wanted to help move people in the same way that show moved me. I didn’t get involved in theater until last year, but I hope to continue to learn and grow to inspire others to follow their passion.” — Binta Francis, project specialist for Walmart

“I’m going to let my nerd show for a second here: it was actually ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation.’ I saw Brent Spiner (Data) get to play — and I do mean play! — with so many different characters, not only as the lovable android but as whatever alien happened to have infiltrated his programming that week. I also saw Sir Patrick Stewart bring poignant nuance to Captain Picard, navigating deep philosophical issues in a really accessible, captivating way, while also having fun with a cast that was clearly family. More to the point, the day I decided to be an actor was the day I saw Season 2, Episode 9, ‘Measure of a Man.’ I want to tell those stories.” — Anna Joie, “gig economist”

“I remember the very moment: Some friends of mine took me to see the national touring company of ‘Angels in America’ by Tony Kushner for my 18th birthday in Chicago, and I was on the edge of my seat, literally. It was transformative. It took me a couple years to finally get into it, but once I did, I loved it and plunged head first.” — Jason LeCompte, psychotherapist

Categories: Theater