The leaves are turning bright colors, a chill is in the air and creepy decorations of ghosts and goblins are showing up on many neighborhood lawns. To help get us into the Halloween spirit, Eastern Michigan University Theatre will produce “Little Shop of Horrors,” opening Thursday.
In addition to being one of off-Broadway’s longest running musicals, “Horrors”has become something of a cult classic thanks to a 1986 movie adaptation.
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like this show,” said Phil Simmons, who directs and choreographs the EMU production alongside musical director R. Mackenzie Lewis.
With book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken, “Little Shop of Horrors”is the story of Seymour, a meek shop clerk who dreams of love, fortune and fame. He has a secret crush on his co-worker Audrey, who also has dreams of getting away and finding love.
The musical comedy turns dark when Seymour finds and raises a strange plant, which he names Audrey II. The plant, it turns out, has a thirst for human blood, and manipulates Seymour, Audrey and others around it in order to be fed.
Simmons directed and choreographed the show with musical direction from Lewis six years ago at Ann Arbor’s Performance Network Theatre, and they were excited to team up to put on the current production.
“I remembered the numbers I wanted to do differently—that I wanted to do a ‘better’ job with,” Simmons said. “It was like getting a second chance.”
One of the key elements of the show, and one that makes it more difficult to do, is the fact that four puppets play four stages of the role of Audrey II. It provided a unique challenge for Simmons and the rest of the production team.
“It’s a different way to have to think about informing the audience,” said Simmons. “In a way, we have to think of them as additional actors.”
A puppet expert, Seth Shaffer, trained the actors who use and interact with the puppets, and the show’s movement specialist, Jennifer Graham, “helped to refine and hone the movement of the four different puppets,” said Simmons.
No doubt, the puppetry is a major reason to go see the show, but more of the show’s best qualities speak for themselves.
“This show has some of my favorite music in all of the musical theatre canon—‘Somewhere That’s Green’ is one of my favorite tunes ever,” said Simmons.
“Little Shop of Horrors”will run Oct. 23, 24, 29, 30 and 31 at 7 p.m., October 31at 10 p.m. and Oct. 25 and Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. in the Quirk Dramatic Arts Building. Note: this production is recommended for ages 13+.