A little ‘Horror’ to make for a good night
Take a show with built-in crowd appeal, add a strong cast and creative crew and stir.
That’s the recipe that Ryan Mooney (Lend Me A Tenor) is banking on for Little Shop of Horrors, now in previews at the Coast Capital Playhouse (formal opening is tomorrow night, Aug. 10 at 8 p.m.).
Last year’s summer co-production between Mooney’s Fighting Chance Productions and the White Rock Players Club was Nunsense – another cult musical – that delivered big time on Mooney’s continuing imperative; producing community-based theatre with thoroughly professional panache.
The hilarity and electricity of that show has, of course, created some very big expectations for Little Shop. But Mooney is confident that he has taken care of the first order of business; assembling a team capable of taking the hit black-comedy musical and running with it.
“We have a really great cast – I always luck out,” he enthused, noting that he likes to audition all his players, even if he has some actors in mind when he’s first planning his shows.
“Most of the actors I’ve known beforehand, but a number are people I hadn’t worked with,” he said.
The Alan Menken-Howard Ashman show – based on a legendary low-budget 1960 film directed by B-Movie auteur Roger Corman – expands on the twisted story of Seymour Krelbourn (played by White Rock’s own Kerry O’Donovan), a sad-sack nebbish who works in a flower shop on the edge of Skid Row.
Bullied by his demanding boss Mr. Mushnik (David Nicks) and tortured by his unrequited love for co-worker Audrey (Melissa Clark) – who’s being abused by her boyfriend, sadistic dentist Orin (Greg Delmage) – Seymour finds himself nurturing a weird Venus Fly Trap-like plant from another planet.
When he accidently pricks his finger, Seymour discovers the plant – which he has named Audrey II – thrives on human blood. And when Audrey II flourishes, bringing instant celebrity to Mushnik’s store, and winning the admiration of the original Audrey, Seymour feels he has little choice but to go on feeding the rapidly growing, R&B-singing, monster, which turns out to have an appetite as big as its voice.
The role of Seymour is a welcome return to the local boards for former Marriott-grad O’Donovan, better known latterly as a singer-songwriter and musical director for Vancouver-based musicals.
“Kerry hasn’t been on stage in seven years, but he’s truly getting back into it – and his experience as a musical director has made the rehearsal process very smooth,” Mooney said.
“He’s perfect for the part – that boy-next-door, Seymour type that you can feel sorry for. He’s going to be really good.”
Co-star Clark – who just graduated from Capilano University’s theatre program – is a relative unknown, but Mooney predicts a bright future for her.
“She’s got the Audrey character down,” he said.
“I’ve never worked with her before, but she did such a good job at the initial auditions that she became the one to beat.
“She has a lovely, lovely voice and when she sang Somewhere That’s Green (the show’s tender ballad) it literally broke my heart the first time I heard it. There’s a certain vulnerability about her – you can’t get someone to act like that.”
While Audrey is traditionally played as a platinum blonde, Mooney has chosen to keep Clark a red-head.
“We’re trying something a little different,” he said.
“While we’re still giving her the pin-up girl styling, she’s got this beautiful, Christina Hendricks from Mad Men, look.”
Nicks – who’s also vice president of Fighting Chance and a teacher at Eric Hamber Secondary in Vancouver, is an experienced and reliable player, Mooney said.
“He’s such a go-getter. He’s fantastic as Mushnik, maybe a little bit younger than the average Mushnik, but he’s doing a great job and has a nice voice for it.”
The tribute to Dulmage’s capabilities is that he’s been entrusted with a total of seven supporting roles, including the brutal Orin, Mooney said.
“He has lots of costumes. It’s one of the things that is really an homage to B-movies, the notion that one actor could be used in all these roles. It works really, really well.”
Nick Fontaine, who provides the voice for Audrey II, has just finished playing the role of Richie Valens in The Buddy Holly Story in Regina, Mooney said.
“He’s done a few shows with us – he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He’s got this crazy, great, booming voice. He’s this 5 foot 10 inch Caucasian and you would never guess that voice would come out of him.”
Operating the various puppet incarnations of Audrey II is Spencer Shearman, stepping in for the previously-announced Adam Olgui, who had to withdraw due to a scheduling conflict.
“Spencer helped us out backstage recently for Lend Me A Tenor in White Rock, and I asked him if he’d like to operate the puppets. He’s getting to play around with them – it’s really fun.”
Fellow White Rock resident Nicole Stevens (featured in last year’s Nunsense) returns as one of the three Doo Wop Girls – the others are Ria Manansala and Veronika Sztopa – who act as a close harmony Greek chorus for the plot developments.
“They’ve really bonded – they’ve got great chemistry,” Mooney said.
He’s equally enthusiastic about his creative team, which includes such trusted frequent collaborators as costumer Oriana Camporese and musical director Vashti Fairbairn, plus emerging local set design star Andrea Olund (Lend Me A Tenor, The Mousetrap) and choregrapher Angela Cotton.
“It’s her first time choreographing a show of this size, but she’s an accomplished ballroom and latin dance teacher as well as a performer herself,” Mooney said. “She’s really taken the show on, and has done a fantastic job choreographing it with funky dance moves for the Doo-Wop Girls, and lots of fun for the other cast, too.”
For tickets and information, visit www.whiterockplayers.ca or call 604-536-7535.