'Little Shop of Horrors' gets to the heart of horrors of human society ... in a fun way
The latest horticultural wonder sprouting up at The Lamp Theatre in Irwin is a little scary because it requires human blood to grow.
Audiences needn't worry, though; the giant-sized Venus fly trap-like plant that devours everything in its path is all part of the fun of “Little Shop of Horrors,” Stage Right's Feb. 23-25 production of the Howard Ashman-Alan Menken off-Broadway musical based on the comedy-horror movie.
Chris McAllister of Greensburg portrays Seymour, who works in a rundown florist shop in the Skid Row slums. The owner, Mr. Mushnik (Jason Swauger of Pittsburgh) plans to close the shop until his employee, Audrey (Layne Bailey of Wexford), suggests that he might attract customers by displaying an unusual plant owned by Seymour.
Life with the plant — which Seymour has named Audrey II for his colleague that he admires — soon gets out of hand when it starts making unreasonable demands (and singing songs, thanks to director Tony Marino, who provides the plant's booming voice).
Playing Seymour in the musical is a dream role for Stage Right regular McAllister, who usually serves as music director for the company's professional and student shows.
“Seymour has always been a theater favorite of mine,” he says. “I saw ‘Little Shop of Horrors' when I was in seventh grade. It was my high school's spring musical that year and I'm fairly certain it was the first musical that I ever saw on stage. It's clearly had a very lasting impact on my life and choice of career.”
During college he returned to his high school to direct a production of the show that was “incredibly special to me because my sister was part of the cast, my mother helped sew costumes, and my father helped design and build the set and the Audrey II plant puppets,” he says.
Seymour is not a typical theater protagonist, according to McAllister.
“He's insecure and a bit naive, but he's so sweet and always has good intentions,” the actor says. “He's had a rough past and struggles with his career and love life, which makes him a perfect match for Audrey. It just takes them both some time to finally realize that.”
Bailey says Audrey suffers from low self-image, doesn't think she deserves a nice man like Seymour and is physically abused by her dentist boyfriend (Jake Churilla of Monroeville). She discovers she deserves him during their song “Suddenly Seymour,” when he finally opens up to her.
Churilla, who describes his character as “becoming a sadistic psychopath,” says he enjoys playing the villain.
“I always find it amusing and rewarding to make people cringe onstage because it invokes a natural response from the audience that they necessarily wouldn't think they would have, or didn't want to have,” he says. “That's the magic of theater.”
He says that ‘Little Shop' is merely a sci-fi parody of the natural horrors of human society.
“Every character in this show is an exaggerated version of someone within our reality, Skid Row is our reality, and the intentionally ironic pop-rock musical accompaniment is the nature of humanity,” he says. “If the audience realizes that, the show will be more relatable and much more humorous.”
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.