“Little Shop of Horrors” Starts Next Week

by Tyler Jasper

photo via Spencer Bertelsen

Seymour (Ethan Niven) protects Audrey (Alyssa Birrer) from Audrey II, a man-eating plant.
Photo via Spencer Bertelsen

Ashland, Ore. – The Theatre Arts program of the Department of Performing Arts at Southern Oregon University presents the musical “Little Shop of Horrors,” with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, and music by Alan Menken in the Center Stage Theatre on the Southern Oregon University campus. Performances run Thursday-Saturday, May 15-17, May 22-24 and May 29-31 at 8 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday, May 24-25and May 31-June 1 at 2 p.m.

Based on a classic low-grade, semi-campy horror film, about a man-eating plant that takes over the life of a nebbishy flower-shop employee and his long-suffering girlfriend, “Little Shop of Horrors” was a long-running Broadway hit and a popular movie in the 80s. Alan Menken’s score evokes early 60s rock and roll, doo-wop and Motown. The musical received the 1983 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical.

“Theatre-goers who think they know ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ will have a surprise,” said Michael J. Hume, guest director. “We have expanded the cast to 16 (from the original nine) in order to get more students onstage. We’ve also snuck in a bit of material from the film version, honoring the original creators’ screenplay.”

Musical director Vicki Purslow notes that “Alan Menken’s score evokes memories of the 1960s Motown girl groups – the Chiffons, Shangri-Las, Ronettes, Crystals and more.  Howard Ashman’s lyrics are very witty, full of references to the past. The audience has to listen very carefully because the jokes continually fly through the music.”

Hume has brought his encyclopedic knowledge of horror films to his vision for the production. “I’ve enjoyed immersing the actors in knowledge of the 50s and 60s paranoia of the Red Menace, and how these fears shaped an entire decade of science-fiction and horror films. This musical follows several great literary themes of world literature, including a ‘rags to riches’ tale, a heroic ‘slaying of the monster’ saga and a retelling the Faust legend. This show will appeal to all ages.”

Purslow is quite excited that this year’s orchestra is exclusively made up of students and includes several from SOU’s new Music graduate program cohort. “Playing in the orchestra for this musical gives our students real life performance experience, and allows them to work as a team – with other musicians and our theatre students – to create live theatre,” she said.

Hume has been a member of the Society of Directors and Choreographers since 1986. This is his fifth production at SOU, including “Duet for One,”  “The White Plague,” “Dick Whittington and His Amazing Cat” and “The Caucasian Chalk Circle.” Locally, Hume has directed at Oregon Cabaret Theatre, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Ashland New Plays Festival. He co-wrote and directed two musicals, “They Came From Way Out There!” and “Dogpark,” which were produced at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. He is a founding member of the Lexington Conservatory Theatre and Capital Rep in New York, where he directed many productions. Hume has been a company member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for 22 seasons.

Purslow conducted the orchestra for “Avenue Q,” “Into the Woods” and “Secret Garden.” She has performed as a woodwind musician for dozens of musicals. Purslow also composed an original score for the play “Bone: Dying Into Life.”

The cast includes Alyssa Birrer as Audrey, Ethan Niven as Seymour and Zlato Rizziolli as Mr. Mushnik. The ensemble includes Sarah Brizek, Lucas Lee Caldwell, Austin Comfort, Karen Fox, Cameron Gray, Michael Hays, Tamra Mathias, Savanna Padilla, Jacob Phillips, Courtney Reece, Lakia Solomon, Moira Todd and Jeremy Vik.

The scenic designer is Spencer Richardson, costume designer is Clare Parker, lighting designer is Mathew Levine and sound designer is Noah Beauregard. The assistant director is Natalia Regalia-Affinito, technical direction is by Alex Groveman, choreographry is by Briawna Jackson and stage manager is Emily Robinson.

The orchestra includes Nic Temple and Ian McCarty on keyboard; Devon Ivie on flute; Tadd Biggs, Stephane Kuborssy and Daniel Chavez on clarinet and sax; Brandon Crafts on guitar and Colin Malloy on bass; and Jon Janakes, Jeff Kolega, Avram Rosove and Tyler Willoughby on percussion.

Tickets are $21 regular admission, $18 senior, and $6 for students. The Performing Arts Box Office is located in the Theatre Arts Building lobby. Box office hours are noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and two hours prior to each performance. Tickets can be purchased with a credit card over the phone by calling 541-552-6348 or online at sou.edu/performingarts.

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