CSUN’s theatre department is engaging audiences in a little song and dance with their rendition of the rock musical “Little Shop of Horrors.”
The soulful musical, composed by Alan Menken and written by Howard Ashman, is based on the classic 1960s film originally directed by Roger Corman.
Musical theater lovers can expect an energetic show of slightly morbid yet lovable characters and rousing musical performances. Director Michael Reno described the plot as being a quirky combination of sadism and charm.
“Above everything I want audiences to leave entertained and touched,” Reno said. “It’s a show with heart.”
The director, who has spent the past five years producing the musical “Sister Act” at the London Palladium, added that despite a small cast of characters, the small production proved to be anything but.
“Little Shop is perceived as a small show but it is very technologically complicated,” Reno said.
Ashman’s musical is set in Los Angeles’ Skid Row in the 1960s amid the musical reign of Motown and doo-wop acts. The show tells the sordid tale of the employees of Mr. Mushnik’s Skid Row Florists, with particular emphasis on the romantically challenged Seymour Krelborn and his flighty love interest Audrey.
Life at the quiet establishment gets interesting when brainy Seymour develops a new plant with a resemblance to a Venus flytrap and a hunger for human flesh.
The result is a horrifically fun story complete with all the technical bells and whistles of a large theater production, despite the small venue.
Theater manager William Taylor said they used the compact space of the theater to their advantage.
“The medium-sized space contains the energy of the production and throws it to the audience,” Taylor said.
Theatre major Alex Tordi, 20, who plays Seymour, said this is his first time in a CSUN production.
“I’m a transfer student from Indiana,” Tordi said. “This is by far the highest-caliber show I’ve been in. You could easily put this show in an off-Broadway or Broadway setting and the audience would still be satisfied.”
Tordi, who started performing in musical theater in the fourth grade, described his role in “Little Shop of Horrors” as a “constant learning experience.”
“It really gave me a better understanding of the theater process,” Tordi said. “ I got to do more than just sing and act. I got to be a part of all the elements.”
These elements included assisting in the construction, sound, lighting and general development of the set.
“I love watching the students learn,” Reno said. “The educational aspect is the best part of doing college theater.”
Taylor also emphasized the importance of student participation in the backstage, as well as onstage, production of a show.
“If you know what’s going into every aspect of a show, you appreciate it a lot more,” Taylor said.
One of the show’s main attractions is the large carnivorous plant, Audrey II, which was controlled by theatre major and aspiring puppeteer Travis Thi.
“I’m the person inside the plant sweating,” Thi said. “I get to eat people, sing, and talk dirty.”
Thi, who is also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology, described Reno as enlightening and said he appreciated his attention to detail and commitment to the show.
For 20-year-old Thi, the role of puppeteer fulfilled his passion for working with specialty props. He plans on pursuing the craft as a possible career path.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with Michael Earl, who’s known for his puppeteer work on Sesame Street,” Thi said. “I would definitely pick a career in specialty props over acting. Specialty props are such a spectacle for a show. To be able to bring life to these inanimate objects is magical.”
Little Shop of Horrors is playing from Oct. 1 to 10, with 7:30 p.m. showings Friday and Saturday and Sunday matinee showings at 2 p.m. in CSUN’s Little Theatre in Nordhoff Hall.