"Little Shop of Horrors" open for business at Eastland Performin
A musical where people innocently visit an out-of-the-way shop and end up getting munched?
Messenger photo by John Matuszak
Zach Alexander, front, as Seymour, is elated that his prize plant is thriving, while his girlfriend, Audrey, played by Elizabeth Testa, appears a little alarmed by the menacing monsters (Chelsea Spencer and Matt Neumann) in the Eastland Performing Arts Program's production of the musical comedy "Little Shop of Horrors." The play will be presented Jan. 24 and 25 at 3 and 7 p.m.
Before Sweeney Todd, there was "Little Shop of Horrors," first in Roger Corman's classic 1960 B-movie and later in the off-Broadway production that is being staged by the Eastland Performing Arts Program Jan. 24 and 25 at 3 and 7 p.m. at Reynoldsburg High School.
"It's a two-headed Rasputin," commented Matt Neumann, who plays the budding bloodsucker Audrey Jr., along with Chelsea Spencer, who also created their creepy, colorful costumes.
In most productions, Audrey Jr., is a mechanically manipulated puppet. In the Eastland production, the two actors get to branch out and use their facial expressions to animate Audrey's less-than-rosy intentions.
"It's controlling and scheming for power," Spencer offered.
Another innovation is the use of a black box space that will put the audience right on the stage with the actors and - gulp - the green ghoul (patrons are asked to keep a close eye on small children).
Two heads are worse than one in this story of skid row flower shop schlep Seymour (Zach Alexander) who discovers the path to success with his chlorophyll cohort is thornier than he expected.
Alexander admits to being "a little nerdy," like Seymour.
But even a dweeb can find love, as romance blossoms between Seymour and Audrey (Elizabeth Testa).
"He's adorable with his glasses on," observed Testa of the horn-rimmed spectacles Seymour wears. "And he's actually nice to her," in contrast with the boyfriends that usually turn her into a black-eyed susan.
Through his thick glasses, Seymour spies something special about Audrey, as well.
"She's the epitome of innocence to him," Alexander said. "She's kind and caring, and that's exactly what he needs at that time."
But the seeds of sorrow are sewn when Seymour discovers a strange plant after a total solar eclipse that thrives on human blood, first Seymour's, and then a full-course menu that includes Audrey's abusive dentist boyfriend.
Seymour is reluctant to bury his new-found status as the ever-growing plant attracts national attention to the shop. Its owner, greedy, grumpy Gravis Mushnik, even offers to adopt the orphaned boy.
When World Botanical Enterprises offers to graft the green giant into countless offspring, Seymour realizes that his creation is from outer space and is bent on world domination.
What will the bumbling Luther Burbank do?
"Little Shop of Horrors" began life as a black comedy Roger Corman reputedly shot in two days and one night, on a budget of $30,000.
In addition to members of his stock company, the movie features an early performance by Jack Nicholson as a masochistic dental patient (a character that did not make the transition to the stage).
(Trivia note: "Little Shop" movie cast members Dick Miller and Jackie Joseph were reunited decades later in "Gremlins" as the Futtermans).
"Little Shop" gained cult status over the years and then experienced an unexpected cross-pollination, emerging as an off-Broadway hit with music by Alan Menken and book and lyrics by Howard Ashman.
It ran for five years and collected numerous awards, and was later translated into a movie again with Rick Moranis and Steve Martin. A 2003 Broadway revival harvested several Tony awards.
Menken and Ashman went on to further success composing the scores for such Disney films as "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast," before Ashman's death in 1991.
Menken has continued his association with Disney animation, collecting eight Academy Awards to date. He wrote the score for the recent hit, "Enchanted."
Corman continued his reputation for cheaply made, often profitable flicks, which included several Vincent Price horror films.
He has also been applauded for recognizing the seeds of greatness in numerous actors, including Robert De Niro and Dennis Hopper, as well as nurturing the careers of directors Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard.
Tickets are free for the Eastland production of "Little Shop of Horrors," but seating is limited and is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
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