From Staples to Skid Row: Players take on "Little Shop of Horrors"

In keeping with the community's ongoing commitment to reduce its carbon footprint, Westport's Staples Players incorporated a "go green" initiative into its upcoming production of the musical, Little Shop of Horrors.

Performances are Friday and Saturday, March 19 and 20, at 7:30 p.m. (with a snow date of Sunday, March 21 at 2 p.m.) and Friday and Saturday, March 26 and 27 (with a snow date of Sunday, March 28 at 2 p.m.).

Raising awareness about the ongoing need to recycle, re-use and reduce fits in well with the show's storyline, which revolves around the weirdly insane happenings at a Skid Row flower shop.

Also, a lead character, Audrey, a sweet-but-not-so-bright, attractive employee at Mushnik's Skid Row Florist, wistfully sings in "Somewhere That's Green." She yearns for a bucolic place in the suburbs, far away from her sadistic dentist boyfriend's abuse.

Eva Hendricks and Michelle Pauker share this role in the high school's production of Little Shop of Horrors.

Pauker performed a leading role in Staples Players summer show, Grease, and both actresses appeared in last fall's sold-out production of Guys and Dolls.

Portraying Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, Hendricks received standing ovations for her rousing song and dance numbers.

She noted that although there are some similarities to the two characters -- such as both possessing a strong "New Yawk" accent that she will reprise for -- Hendricks explained that "Audrey has been beaten down by life and is just looking to be loved."

Seymour, a geeky floral assistant, is only too happy to oblige. Peter Molesworth and Chris Nicoletti, who share this role at alternating performances, express Seymour's devotion and newfound machismo in one of the first act's showstoppers, "Suddenly Seymour."

Composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman blend rock 'n' roll, doo-wop and Motown styles to create the show's memorable musical score.

Unfortunately, a man-eating plant from outer space thwarts true love as it continues to grow after being fed human blood.

"Seymour is conflicted because he is really an innocent, an orphan who only wants to have a sense of family but instead becomes connected to this plant that demands that he kill people so it could survive," Nicoletti explained.

The Little Shop of Horrors, with all of its campy satire, was first a B-movie in 1960 (featuring a young and then-unknown Jack Nicholson), and later made into an off-Broadway in 1982, dropping "The" from the title and adding music. This was followed by a 1986 movie of the musical version (starring Rick Moranis).

Although Director David Roth said that every play comes with its own set of challenges, doing a parody of a 1960s science fiction movie definitely required that he push the actors to "go over the top."

"It's a very, very funny show," Roth said. "The music is great and the script is fun to do, too. I love the whole style of the piece."

The blood-thirsty plant, called Audrey II, is actually a puppet that will be played by Adam Bangser and August Laska. "We were looking for a terrific bass voice that could express himself through his voice since the physical aspect of the plant is accomplished by a different actor inside the puppet," explained Roth.

Robert Mathis is performing the vocals for Audrey II.

Dan Shure, a veteran of several main stage productions, will play Mr. Mushnik.

The puppets, which are rented, recently arrived at the Westport campus and, according to Hendrickson, the actors are having a good time getting to know the newest additions to their ensemble. "They're huge!" she exclaimed. "They're really amazing, and learning how to work with them has been a lot of fun."

Although there are two more productions scheduled for the spring, Little Shop of Horrors marks the final musical produced on Staples' main stage this year. For graduating seniors, such as Nicoletti, this is a poignant time.

"There's no other school around here that does anything at such a professional level as Staples Players," he said.

He recalls seeing his first Staples' show as a child growing up in Westport.

"I thought that it was Broadway-caliber theater and I always aspired to be part of it," he added.

Nicoletti, along with most of the students who spend time in Staples High School's drama department, also expressed profound appreciation for his teacher, director and mentor, Roth.

"He is a visionary," Chris explained. "I don't think there is anyone like him. He cares about each student and attempts to the best possible performance out of him or her. I know that I've really grown under his tutelage and, without a doubt, Staples Players is what it is because of him."

Production staff for Little Shop of Horrors includes Associate Director Kerry Long; Musical Director Chris Coogan; Choreographer Joanne Kahn; Technical Director Dave Seltzer; Set Designers Reid Thompson and Dave Seltzer; and Costume Designers Marjorie Watt and Priscilla Stampa.

Little Shop of Horrors is recommended for children ages 10 and above due to some language and violence. No one under the age of 4 will be admitted.

All seats are reserved. To purchase tickets, go to Tickets will also be sold in the main lobby of Staples High School March 15-19, 12:30 to 2 p.m. Cash or check must be used.

Available tickets may be purchased at the door beginning 30 minutes before curtain. Ticket prices are adults, $15; and students, $10. Call 203-341-1310 for more information. All performances are at Staples High School, 70 North Avenue, Westport.