Directed by Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks with choreography by Kathleen Marshall, the company also features Douglas Sills as Orin Scrivello, Michael Leon Wooley as the Voice of Audrey II, Rob Bartlett as Mushnik with Carla J. Hargrove as Ronnette, Trisha Jeffrey as Crystal and Dequina Moore as Chiffon. The giant plant designed by the Jim Henson Workshop is puppeteered by Martin P. Robinson, Anthony Asbury, Bill Remington and Matt Vogel. Robinson designed the plant that was used during the musical's original Off-Broadway run.
The creative team for the musical — which officially opens Oct. 2 — comprises William Ivey Long (costume designer), Scott Pask (set designer), Donald Holder (lighting designer) and T. Richard Fitzgerald (sound designer).
At a recent open press rehearsal, director Zaks spoke about the show and his cast. "They're very talented people," said Zaks, "all of whom are devoted to doing the show as written by Howard Ashman. That is the that without which there is nothing. . . . Howard's recipe was so meticulous — and Alan's, of course — but to the extent that he wrote the words and he wrote the story, it would be madness not to use that as a springboard or a blueprint. That's the show, and all you need are people who can execute it as though their lives depended on it. [Ashman] said this show is never more effective as when it's done honestly, and he said the style will evolve with that, and I believe that. Mean what you say. Don't demonstrate your characters' eccentricities for me. Make me believe that the character wants something outside of himself or herself, and that's the way we've been approaching it."
The musical's two stars also discussed their respective characters. About the nebbishy Seymour, Hunter Foster said, "I think Seymour's an honest guy, a simple guy. He's not complicated. He's very straightforward. It's pretty much, what you see is what you get. But he just gets caught up in his passion for what he wants, whether it's [being] in love with Audrey [or wanting] to get out of living in Skid Row, and he'll do anything to get out of that. [He's] like a lot of us. We get caught up in fame or money or relationships, and things just spiral out of control because we want something so badly, and I think that's what happens with him." Kerry Butler said that Audrey "sees the best in everything. She's very, very trusting, and she's had her issues with men [that] just come from her childhood — that her father left her. She has such a low self-image. She thinks that nobody would ever like her, and I think she tries to please people, but she has a really good heart."
The original production of Little Shop of Horrors opened at the old WPA Theatre in Chelsea and then transferred to the Orpheum Theatre in 1982, where it stayed for 2,209 performances. Ashman, who died on March 14, 1991, directed the piece. Edie Cowan was choreographer. The musical, which boasts such tunes as "Suddenly Seymour," "Downtown" and "Somewhere That's Green," was made into a 1986 film starring Ellen Greene as Audrey, Rick Moranis as Seymour, Vincent Gardenia as Mushnik and Steve Martin as Orin, the dentist. Composer Alan Menken, whose professional career began with the original Off-Broadway mounting, fondly recalled that original production at the open press rehearsal and explained, "At the WPA Theatre [Little Shop later transferred to the Orpheum], I played the show and musical directed it, which is something I don't normally do. It was Howard and me against the world at that point. I remember we even put in some of the money for the initial plant. It was just that little hole-in-the-wall theatre. I've never had an experience like the first public performance of Little Shop... the audience just laughing and crying and screaming. I just couldn't believe what I was feeling because it was this little machine that just took off and hasn't stopped since.
"Little Shop, in a way," Menken added, "was Howard and my most complete collaboration. This was a baby that we built from the ground up. And the idea of reviving it has always been a challenge — both exciting and daunting — because Howard's not here [and] we have to let our baby go and let Little Shop walk on her own with some great support, but I've got to step back from it."
Tickets — on sale through Feb. 29, 2004 — are priced between $56 and $96; all prices include a $1 restoration charge. Through Sept. 28, Little Shop of Horrors will play Tuesday-Saturday evenings at 8 PM, Sundays at 7 PM with 2 PM matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. From Sept. 29-Oct. 5, the musical will play Tuesday-Saturday evenings at 8 PM with matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 PM and Sundays at 3 PM. Beginning Oct. 6, the playing schedule will be Tuesdays at 7 PM, Wednesday through Saturdays at 8 PM with matinees Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 PM and Sundays at 3 PM.
The Virginia Theatre is located at 245 West 52nd Street. Tickets are available by calling (212) 239-6200 or by logging on to www.telecharge.com.