It is, in its own special way, a modern classic. A young and nerdy flower shop clerk names his plant Audrey after the young woman he's secretly in love with. Audrey II offers the possibility of better times for him, until Seymour discovers the plant is carnivorous with a decided liking for blood. And has its own agenda.
Seymour, alas, is not totally heroic in this. He feeds Audrey's abusive boyfriend to the plant, which grows ever larger. He tricks the owner of the business into climbing into the maw of the plant with fatal consequences. Eventually even Audrey and Seymour himself are consumed by the deadly plant, creature of an alien race that came to Earth.
Stages Repertory Theatre is mounting a production of Little Shop of Horrors and Scenic Designer Laura Fine Hawkes has been building the puppets from the ground up, Director Mitchell Greco says. "We're thinking about the entire puppet rather than just flapping the mouth open and closed."
Greco says the early work by Alan Menken (music) and Howard Ashman (book and lyrics) is just about perfectly structured. "It's fine and dark and gruesome and I could just keep going." And its story of the dangers of greed remains timely, he says.
The play is set in the early 1960s. "The music and the styles that Alan Mencken is playing with are really grounded in the '60s. The urchins, the Greek chorus of the teen-aged girls, their named after the girl groups of the '60s, Ronnette, Crystal and Chiffon.
Actor Mark Ivy plays Seymour, a role he's played before for Theatre Under the Stars. Kiaya Scott is Audrey.. And Stoo plays the plant with voice by Phillip Brown.
"Little Shop is tricky in that it really rides that line of camp, satire and parody but it has to also come from a place of simplicity and honesty for the comedy to work," Greco says. "You have to find actors who can do that And Mark is a really perfect example of an actor who's able to ride that line wonderfully."
The show has been done by countless theater groups over the years and there are several reasons for this, Greco says. "It’s not just because the music is incredible; it is. It not just because the puppets are fun; which they are. It is so tight, it is so smart the lyrics are so funny."
This isn't an especially long play, Greco notes. The nine-member cast covers the first act in about an hour and the second act comes in at 34 minutes, he says. "I would invite people to come see it and rediscover it."
"Seymour our hero sacrifices and kills his co-workers, his love interest, his father figure to get ahead in life. . That is deeply dark. It’s very funny, yes, but there’s a lot there to see if people show up to see it.
"I think the show is just as timely as ever in what it has to say about greed and the length the disenfranchised will go to to succeed in life and the lines we draw with our morality. And the show is really fun."
Performances are scheduled for March 6 through April 28 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. For information, call 713-527-0123 or visit stagestheatre.com. $25-$62.