Human body parts are disposed around the room as an alien plant lures his victims through sly manipulation and devours them without mercy. As the director ends the scene, the actor gathers the remains and adorns them with a maniacal glare and strikes a pose without breaking character.
An off-Broadway classical musical, “Little Shop of Horrors” will be performed Friday through Sunday by the student-run theater group Act III. By bringing the inanimate plant to life through the work of student actors, Act III will add a twist to an already bizarre musical.
The musical is about a plant from outer space that makes its way into a flower district where florist Seymour finds it and brings it back to his shop. He discovers that the plant is a manipulating, blood-sucking, human-devouring alien with plans for world domination. Seymour suddenly finds himself torn between fame through the exposure of this alien plant and living a tranquil life with his love.
The alien plant has three distinguishable personas: the innocent, the seductive and the powerful, which are projected through choreography and costume, said Phoebe Stanton, second-year economics student and producer of the musical.
“The first plant is all brown because it’s supposed to be the smallest plant and it represents the fact that it is mostly roots and hasn’t grown enough,” Stanton said. “As the plant starts growing the costume starts getting greener to symbolize growth and power. It’s a great visual for understanding the interaction between Seymour and the plant and it creates a new level of interest.”
Michael Starr, a third-year musical theater student, is one of the three plants in the show. He plays the seductive middle plant as it transitions from innocent to manipulative.
“What’s fun is putting a plant into a human body and basing physical movement from a voice because other productions have used voice-overs for the inanimate plant. My choreography is pretty sensual and pretty much I’m all about seducing Seymour,” Starr said.
Starr’s choreography involves a lot of hip-thrusting and the movement evolves as the plant reaches maturation. It shifts from routine dance moves to the physical action of eating humans.
The idea of using an actor to portray a plant came from the collective work of Act III’s new production team. This is its first production without its founding members, the last of whom graduated in the spring. It has a large creative team, a full student orchestra and a full set with walls.
Stanton said she was not prepared for something so grand in scale. She said she had to move from various rooms in Schoenberg Hall for rehearsal because of the size and noise of the production, and had to fill out many funding applications in order to make this $13,000 musical possible.
“This was not meant to be this big,” Stanton said. “It kind of snowballed into it as we kept getting more and more ideas.”
Cast as the leading lady, Kayla Parker is a second-year musical theater student and plays Audrey, Seymour’s love interest. She said she had to adjust to certain aspects of the character, including the character’s accent.
“For my audition I actually wore a pencil skirt and a push-up bra but I didn’t bring the accent that Audrey has. I added that later and I also made her more bold and sexy,” Parker said.
Every character in the musical is reinterpreted to allow vision and creativity, yet stays true to the original script, Parker said. “Musicals are an art form that sometimes get forgotten. There’s a good reason I’m putting in who knows how many hours,” Stanton said. “This musical is really funny and witty. I mean it’s about an alien plant, how can it not be?”
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