Playhouse premieres musical comedy

Tara Martin/Contributing photographer

Playhouse in the Park kicks off the Halloween season tonight with its opening of a dark musical comedy.

“Little Shop of Horrors,” a musical by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, will be performed for the next three weekends. The show will be Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., and on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. from Oct. 19 through Nov. 4 at Playhouse in the Park located off Gil Hopson Drive in Murray.

The show is a comedic musical centered around an assistant at a Florist’s shop who finds himself raising a plant that feeds on human flesh and blood.

Bryant Powell, freshman from Mayfield, Ky., plays the assistant shopkeeper in the production.

“‘Little Shop’ is basically its own experience in musical theater in that it’s just so different from pretty much any other show on the market,” Powell said. “The music has its own style, the dialogue has its own style. It’s just extraordinarily unique in so many ways.”

Director Stephen Keene, from Louisville, Ky., has worked with Playhouse in the Park for 12 years. After being involved in “Little Shop of Horrors” twice previously he said he was enthusiastic about adding this unique show to the 2012 season.

“When we added (‘Little Shop of Horrors’) to this season, I was really excited about it,” Keene said. “I had some ideas as far as being the director, having a vision of the show, and knowing the story line. So, I was really excited about being able to actually take on the role of director because I know a lot about the show.”

Because Keene knew about the production before coming into rehearsals, he had time to think about the differences that could make Playhouse in the Park’s production stand out.

“One of the big things I’ve thought about with this production is making sure that the actors don’t overdo the characters because so often those characters in this particular show are overdone, and it can come of as a little cartoon-y. I’ve told (the actors) just to kind of let it happen naturally and that it will automatically be funny—they don’t have to work so hard in order to make that happen,” Keene said.

Not only did the director add his touch to “Little Shop of Horrors,” specializing this production, but had the puppets of the plant that grows throughout the show specialty made.

“I love the plants and the puppets that we have,” Keene said. “Most of the time you rent (the puppets), but we actually had somebody approach us to make them for us, so I’ve actually gotten to see the process of the plants all being made and everything. It’s been really neat and very personalized for us. The plants are the biggest thing that people remember about the show, so being able to have those personally made by such a phenomenal artist has been really neat.”

Keene and the artist who made the plant puppets are not the only Murray State-affiliated people involved in the production. This show in particular incorporates Murray State faculty, staff, students and alumni in every aspect from the live band to behind the scenes.

“About half of the cast members are Murray State students and some of the people in the band are also from Murray State,” Keene said. “I have a music degree from Murray State, so I didn’t have to find someone else to teach the music, I just taught it myself. We also have a choreographer who graduated from Murray State as well, so he has come in and taught a lot of the dance numbers.”

One of the nine cast members, Powell was chosen from 30 to 40 people who auditioned to play the character Seymour. He said it was exciting to find out that he got the part for which he had auditioned.

“Seymour is the clumsy assistant shopkeeper to a man named Mr. Mushnik who runs a flower shop in the bad part of (town), Skid Row,” Powell said. “Seymour and I are both a little bit awkward around the fairer sex and we’re both ambitious. He’s a person who feels very deeply and is willing to do whatever it takes to make his dreams a reality.”

After working on understanding his character for several weeks, Powell said he is looking forward to opening night.

“I’m looking forward to the audience reaction,” Powell said. “I’ve been doing this to a row of empty chairs, and I want to see how actual people react to the things that I’m doing on stage.”

Keene agreed with Powell about opening night.

“I would say that you definitely don’t want to miss seeing these amazing plants, and the amazing cast,” Keene said. “We had to pick from the very best of the (30-40) people who auditioned and I think we came out with a cast that is pretty phenomenal. So, if you’re looking for good music, a comedy and a musical then you don’t want to miss (‘Little Shop of Horrors’). It’s so entertaining and it’s a show the whole family can see.”

Tickets for “Little Shop of Horrors” can be purchased by calling the box office at 270-759-1752.

Tickets cost $8 for children (12 and under), $9 for students, $10 for seniors and $11 for adults. For 10 or more, groups get a $2 per ticket discount.

Story by Maddie Mucci, Staff writer.