Many theatre goers will be familiar with the 1986 film version of Little Shop of Horrors, but Theatre New Brunswick hopes to take the production in a new direction.
“I want to bring freshness and attention to the role,” said Ben Ross, playing the lead role of Seymour. He’s never seen the entire film version, which starred Rick Moranis as Seymour.
“I’ve tried to limit my exposure to other influences.”
TNB artistic director Caleb Marshall, who directed the show, said this version differs significantly from the film, but will “pay homage” to it.
The theatre company’s latest main stage production makes its debut Thursday at the Fredericton Playhouse.
Little Shop of Horrors was adapted for the stage in 1982 by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (who would later make music for Disney faves The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast).
The plot revolves around Seymour, a down-on-his-luck florist, and his strange and sinister plant, Audrey Jr. The original Audrey is a co-worker and the object of Seymour’s affection, but she has a boyfriend, Orin, a sadistic dentist.
“Seymour is a really genuine person. He doesn’t really have a filter when he’s speaking to others,” said Ross, a native of Quispamsis.
The production is a musical adaptation of the 1960 B movie (that included a cameo by the young Jack Nicholson as a masochistic dental patient), set to a swinging soundtrack of funk, soul and Motown tunes.
Marshall said he was drawn to the production for a variety of reasons.
“It’s a fan-favourite,” he said, adding that it was high on the audience’s wish list.
Not only did the show represent a personal challenge for the director with its “demanding” production and large use of puppetry, but also personal nostalgia.
“[Little Shop of Horrors] was a part of my childhood.”
Still for Marshall, balancing the light and the dark was important.
“[We are] taking dark subject matter into a musical comedy,” he said. “It can’t be too campy, but I didn’t want it to be too dark.”
While casting the show, Marshall worked to assemble the best talent possible. “I was looking for real people,” he said.
“[It is a] phenomenal cast. They’re always at full-tilt energy,” said Marshall, adding that each performer in the cast of nine has a demanding role. “There is not a weak character in this show.”
Ross praised the cast for helping him with his biggest challenge, singing.
“I consider myself an actor first. Working with the cast helped… I’m feeling more confident as opening day approaches.”
With its “unbelievably satisfying music” and quirky story, Marshall hopes to attract new patrons to the Playhouse with this production, including students.
Little Shop of Horrors runs at The Fredericton Playhouse from March 21-24. Student tickets are $10.
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