Evil Plants and Love Affairs in This Weekend’s Production of “Little Shop of Horrors”

Graffiti sprawled across the walls and a bicycle tire hanging off the third floor balcony in Tang Theatre, the house lights dim as the first ominous notes of music play in the dress rehearsal for “Little Shop of Horrors.” Over the music, the narrator, Theo Perez ’16, describes the arrival of a strange plant.

Directed by Kevin Heelan, Instructor in Theatre, “Little Shop of Horrors” will present a simultaneously horrific and comedic plot concerning sacrifice, romance and a flesh eating plant, voiced by Michaela Barczak ’15. “Little Shop of Horrors” will be performed this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and this Sunday at 2 p.m. in Tang Theatre.

“[The flesh eating plant] relies a lot… on the vocals, so I can’t really use my body to convey messages. All my emotions have to be conveyed through my voice, which has been a little challenging for me because I’m used to being super expressive… the script has some cues as to what to do in places, but then a lot of it then had to do with experimenting,” said Barczak.

The musical details the life of Seymour Krelborn, played by Tom Burnett ’15, a poor young man living on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. Seymour works in a failing plant shop alongside the female protagonist, Audrey, played by Makenna Marshall ’18.

Marshall said, “Audrey’s very submissive, and I’ve had people tell me that I’m not [and] that I’m the exact opposite. Even [with] my voice, [it] gets hard to be her, so I think she’s a completely different person from me. But at the same time, she has this vulnerability of having a past, and I think I can understand that.”

Shortly after the start of the show, Seymour finds a strange plant, reminiscent of a Venus Fly Trap. He names the plant Audrey II in honor of Audrey, whom Seymour secretly loves. As Seymour cares for Audrey II, he comes to realize the needs of the plant. Over the course of the show, Seymour learns more about the species of Audrey II and its reason for arriving at Skid Row.

Barczak said, “I think Audrey II really represents the devil in the show and the taunting of Seymour and… trying to get him to sell his soul to the devil. I’ve never played that much of an evil character before.”

Simultaneously, Audrey’s life provides a small subplot. Stuck in an abusive relationship with the dentist, Orin Scrivello, played by Elliot Sagay ’15, Audrey dreams throughout the play of living with Seymour, who Audrey is secretly in love with.

As the show progresses, Seymour must navigate both the growing needs of the Audrey II plant as well as his complicated budding romance with Audrey.

Marshall said, “Me and [Burnett] didn’t know each other much before this, so it was very interesting to get to know him in this place where we were supposed to be pretending we were lovers. We got to know each other a lot more than I thought we would, and we’ve gotten really close in the past few months.”

Particularly notable about this production of “Little Shop of Horrors” is the set, designed by Billy Murray, Instructor in Theatre and Dance. The set extends beyond the stage, protruding into the audience. By incorporating such a dynamic set, the audience is really pulled into the play’s setting.

Heelan said, “We wanted [the stage] to come out to make it a little more immediate to the audience. I think really what makes [the show] unique is the design. I think it completely transforms this sort of play considering the fact that we’ve used this entire space.”

Additionally, Andover’s production places the orchestral band directly on stage and thus in full view of the audience. While typically the musicians and voice of Audrey II are hidden backstage or in an orchestral pit, these musicians and Barczak will be visible throughout the entire show.

“We just decided that it would be better [to have the musicians on stage] because it’s a completely presentational show, there’s nothing representational about it…. Everybody knows it’s a play. We acknowledge that at the beginning, so there’s no use in trying to pretend that [it’s not] … it announces itself as a completely presentational play,” said Heelan. Tickets are $10 each for the general public or $5 each with a BlueCard and may be reserved through the box office.