Theatre at the Center in full bloom with new production of 'Little Shop of Horrors'

2012-07-13T00:00:00Z 2012-07-14T01:17:40Z Theatre at the Center in full bloom with new production of 'Little Shop of Horrors'By Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Director and choreographer Stacey Flaster says there's a reason the hit musical "Little Shop of Horrors" isn't produced and offered to audiences as often as other works.

"It's a lot of work and there's a lot to it," said Flaster, who is spending today's Friday the 13th fine-tuning the details of the production about a "little blood-thirsty plant who could" opening this weekend at Theatre at the Center in Munster.

"But there's a great result for audiences and everyone when this story is done right."

Inspired by the original blockbuster 1960 Roger Corman film, what's described as "the monster hit" plays until Aug. 19 and features the memorable score by the songwriting team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, the latter who went on to create Disney's "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and The Beast" and "Aladdin." 

Flaster, who also was in Northwest Indiana last summer heading the run of "The Wiz," spent much of her June wrapped up in plant possibilities.

"Another reason it's a rare treat to see this show done by theater companies is because it's not easy to create or arrange for the plant puppets, which are the focal point stars of the story," she said.

Theatre at the Center's run boasts what Flaster says are "glorious refurbishments" of the plant puppets from the original New York production.

"As many people know, Bill Pullinsi, artistic director for Theatre at the Center, spent years doing shows in Chicago when he was at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse," she said.

"Well, he had done 'Little Shop of Horrors' back in the 1980s and purchased the original plants from the New York run and then had kept them in storage in his warehouse for all this time. We've updated and freshened them up for some audience surprises. I think people forget it actually takes four prop versions of the plant to be used in the show, since it keeps growing and getting bigger in scene after scene. What starts out as a hand puppet becomes the large, looming, leafy creature by the end."

And casting just the right actor to play the mild-mannered florist who fosters and cares for the formidable foliage also required careful consideration.

Down-and-out florist shop worker Seymour has to be a contrast to his blood-craving plant pet, since he finds himself an overnight sensation because of his discovery.

Infatuated with his co-worker Audrey, Seymour allows his new-found fame and fortune to seduce him into giving the man-eating-plant as much "tender love and care" as it requires, and names the plant, Audrey II, after his secret love.

Flaster cast Jon Cunningham as Seymour, after three days of auditions.

"He not only had the right tone and personality, he also is about to hold his own against this giant puppet plant without getting upstaged," she said.

To round out her cast, she found actor Peter Kevoian to play fussy Mushnik, dapper Rod Thomas as the Dentist, Tiffany Trainer for love interest Audrey and Stan White to lend his vocals and movement to Audrey II.

And for the sequined gown, elegant-to-the-elbow gloved back-up singers, she selected Eva Ruwe as Crystal, Reneisha Jenkins as Ronette, Chadae McAlister as Chiffon.

The musical direction and orchestrations are by William A. Underwood and Bill Bartelt as scenic designer, with costumes by Brenda Winstead, wigs by Kevin Barthel and props by Lauren Earnshaw.

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