What would you do if you were promised all of your heart’s desires – but with some nasty strings?
In the musical, “Little Shop of Horrors,” Seymour Krelborn, a poor, miserable floral shop employee, faces this timeless question after he unwittingly stumbles upon a flesh-eating plant that promises him money, fame and the love of his co-worker crush, Audrey.
Local actors will bring this dark comedy-rock musical, described by its director and producer as “funny,” “quirky” and “bizarre,” to Windham Center Stage Theater for two weekends this month.
The show marks the beginning of Windham Center Stage’s 43rd season and a continuation of its mission to “offer family-friendly shows that are pretty much good for anyone,” according to Jon Miele, director and board member.
While “Little Shop” may be edgy and slightly gruesome, it’s never scary, Miele said.
The musical is based on a 1960 film directed by Roger Corman. Composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman created the stage show, which premiered in 1982. The musical was made into a movie in 1986.
The show poses a few technical challenges. The set is fairly simple and easy to move, but bringing a giant plant to life onstage does come with a some difficulties.
The plant (named Audrey II by Seymour, after his crush) grows throughout the show, and eventually sings a couple musical numbers. There are four different puppets, each progressive in size, to represent Audrey’s growth. Center Stage borrowed the series of Audrey II puppets from Scarborough High School and refurbished them for its own production.
Sam Laro, a junior at Scarborough High School, is the puppeteer behind Audrey II. He said he did a little puppetry when he was younger, but Audrey II is his first major role as a puppeteer.
To operate the two largest Audrey II puppets, Laro climbs inside the giant Venus fly-trap plant. Then, he operates the plant’s “trap” with his arms, while David Goulet, a local theater veteran and Portland-based voice teacher, sings and speaks as the plant.
“It’s a little like lifting weights,” said Laro of operating the puppet, adding that he would likely gain some muscle from the production. The role is also “a fun acting challenge,” he said, because he can’t see his fellow actors from behind the puppet.
The show features actors and crew members from all over the region, including Windham, Raymond, Gray and Gorham. The cast includes actors of all ages, although most of the leads are high school students and young adults. Every year, Center Stage does one show with only children. This year, the children’s show is “The Wizard of Oz.”
Miele said offering roles for people of all ages makes Center Stage “kind of the ultimate community theater.” Miele, a Windham native and active member of community theater in southern Maine, grew up attending shows at Windham Center Stage.
For members of the cast and crew, the opportunity to work together on a production brings them closer together and creates a surrogate “theater family,” Miele said.
For Miles Obrey, a senior at Gorham High School who plays the lead as Seymour Krelborn, theater is “a good way to express yourself, and a way to be someone you’re not.” As for playing Seymour, it’s a “bucket role,” he said, a character he aspired to play long before auditions.
The show also has more than 80 volunteers helping with lights, set design, costumes and more, according to producer Darnell Stuart, who also chairs the board of directors. Many of the volunteers are family members of people in the cast, and often a whole family might get involved in different aspects of a single production, Stuart said.
Brooke Papineau, who plays Audrey and is a senior at Portland High School, said theater is a good way to bring entertainment and culture to a community.
“Theater broadens people’s horizons,” she said.
Nathan Bachner, a junior at Gorham High School, plays Mr. Mushnik, owner of the floral shop where Seymour and Audrey are employees. Bachner has acted in several other shows with Windham Center Stage, and he says live theater “brings people together. Really one of the only times you see people from all communities come together is to see a piece of theater.”
While “Little Shop” is about a plant that tears people apart – literally – the cast and crew of Windham’s production agree that attending the show is a way to foster community, and at the very least, to enjoy a night of absurdity with a touch of gore.
Windham Center Stage Theater will present “Little Shop of Horrors” in the auditorium adjacent to the Town Office, 8 School Road, on Friday, Oct. 14 and Oct. 21, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 15 and Oct. 22 at, 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 16 and Oct. 23, at 4 p.m.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. For more information or to reserve tickets, call 893-2098 or visit www.windhamtheater.org.