Ignite! Community Theatre takes on classic dark comedy
‘Little Shop of Horrors” is one of the most celebrated cult musicals of the ’80s, a peculiar B-movie plot imbued with ’60s girl-group pop songs. Inspired by Roger Corman’s low-budget 1960 horror comedy, the show debuted off-Broadway in 1982 and was the first big hit for Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who were later responsible for the original songs in such Disney films as “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
This weekend, Ignite! Community Theatre will be premiering their interpretation of “Little Shop.” It’s the company’s first-ever musical production.
The story concerns a meek florist named Seymour Krelborne, who discovers an odd-looking plant that turns out to be an extraterrestrial being with a thirst for human blood. As the plant, which resembles a Venus flytrap and is named Audrey II, grows bigger and bigger, its appetite becomes insatiable, and pretty soon Seymour is throwing bodies into Audrey II’s welcoming jaws. By the end of the show, the plant looms over the humans with a booming baritone voice that demands, “Feed me, Seymour!”
It’s dark material, sure, but the energy of the songs and the sheer absurdity of the story keep “Little Shop of Horrors” within the realm of comedy, and it’s certainly the funniest musical ever made about murder and dismemberment.
“It’s very funny and quirky, but also fairly dark in places,” said Troy Nickerson, who is co-directing the Ignite! production with Heather McHenry-Kroetch. “But it’s basically a love story about this nerdy guy and what he’ll do to fall in love, and he thinks the plant is what makes him successful and what makes her like him, when the reality is she likes him anyway.”
Seymour’s love interest is another Audrey, a pretty but timid girl who works with him in the flower shop (Seymour, of course, names his pet plant after her). She’s dating a sadistic dentist who knocks her around, and when Audrey II demands blood, Seymour is more than happy to sacrifice the abusive boyfriend.
Audrey II is the most imposing character in “Little Shop,” and the Ignite! crew has built four individual puppets to represent the plant’s various stages of growth. The largest puppet is made of fiberglass and stands about 5 feet tall, and it requires multiple operators to animate it.
“This show has so many last-minute details that really take a lot of ironing out,” Nickerson said. But despite the ambition of the production, he said the key to the story is the relationship at its center – the unrequited love between Seymour and the human Audrey.
“I’m playing it pretty honest and pretty straightforward and not overly campy and ridiculous,” Nickerson said. “I’m having the actors be real and honest in their intentions and emotions, and not just have everything be a big joke. We still have all the humor, but it’s also very touching and very sweet.”