The musical Little Shop of Horrors has been a long-time favorite thanks to the popularity of the 1986 cult classic film adaptation, but forget what you expect when this spring, Little Theatre of Norfolk presents a unique interpretation of the characters and the show’s star, a blood-thirsty plant named “Audrey II”.
This version has grit and surprises. “Audiences come into classic musicals, like Little Shop with preconceived notions of what certain characters look like. I don’t feel the need to repeat the same show with the same aesthetic for the 1000th time. We’re going to approach all of our characters the same way as we are approaching Audrey II, with a clean slate,” says the production’s director, Brendan Hoyle.
Hoyle’s vision is exactly why LTN is building all four versions of the Audrey II puppets instead of renting them. It’s not something that most community theatres have the time or talent to attempt. But LTN does. Heather Shannon is the master artist and Michelle Jenkins is the co-designer bringing the small, medium, large, and extra-large plants to life. “I had a wonderful art professor in college that would say, ‘In art, we learn the rules so we can break them.’ I have done a lot of research to see what has worked for other theatres, but ultimately, the goal is to make this something special and unique,” explains Shannon. “I want to honor the original without just copying that design.”
Each plant puppet must function in a specific way. Two versions are hand operated. The two larger plants require more of a full-body operation, as well as a technician to aid the puppeteer, GinaKay Howell. Shannon says the puppets will be crafted from a combination of materials, including foam, fiberglass, lumber, two-part plastics, resin, “and anything else we can get our hands on!”
While Hoyle has directed more than 20 shows locally, this is his first opportunity to direct Little Shop of Horrors. “Little Shop was one of the very first musicals I ever saw and I have wanted to work on it for a long time. I was pretty obsessed with it as a child. I love it!” Hoyle is currently the theatre director at Norfolk Collegiate School and previously worked for Virginia Stage Company. He has directed several shows at LTN, including Once Upon a Wolf, I Ought to be in Pictures, The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Drowsy Chaperone. He also served on the LTN board of directors twice in the past, including a couple of years as the theatre’s artistic director.
Shannon has worked professionally in theatre for 20 years. She is originally from Missouri and worked at several theatres across the state. Since coming to Virginia, she has worked with Virginia Opera, Virginia Stage Company, Virginia Scenic, and often volunteers with local community theatres. She has previously served as LTN’s vice president and other roles on the theatre’s board of directors.
Little Shop of Horrors opens May 24 at Little Theatre of Norfolk, located at 801 Claremont Avenue in the Chelsea neighborhood of Norfolk. The production runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM and Sundays at 2:30PM through June 16. Tickets are available at ltnonline.org or by calling the box office at (757) 627-8551. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, military and students, and $9 for youth age 17 and under. The show is family friendly. Kids will especially love seeing the monster plant devour it’s “plant food” live on stage. Parking is free in the lots behind the theatre and across the street.
Little Theatre of Norfolk is a volunteer led, non-profit community theatre, continually operating since 1926.