Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Stone Productions Presents “Little Shop of Horrors”

It started as a low-budget comedy in 1960 by legendary producer/director Roger Corman. The story of an awkward young man who nurtures a plant and discovers it’s carnivorous became wildly successful in 1986, remade as a musical starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Steve Martin and Bill Murray (among others) with music and lyrics by the legendary Howard Ashman (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin). 

Little Shop of Horrors remains a crowd favorite, performed by community theater troupes across the nation. This is Stone Productions’ first time performing this show, though it’s a personal favorite of director James Gregory Mull.

Stone Productions

The company began as an experiment by Mull and a few friends who had worked semi-professionally in theater. The groups’ first show was The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 2015, put on in a nightclub. Some members of Collingwood Arts Center (CAC) were in attendance. 

As Mull explains, “Back then, CAC was new. They had artists and photographers, but not a lot of big events yet, other than Children’s Theater Workshop (CTW). They asked if we’d like to do a performance of the show at CAC the next year. They didn’t have an in-house theater company for plays and musicals, so we were approached to work in collaboration with them as their in-house theater company.” 

Mull says in 2016 there weren’t many companies in the area doing shows with an edge, which they thought could become their niche. By 2024, Stone Productions has made a name for itself with an edgier style and branching out to perform the classics, as well. 

“Choosing the shows for the season means sitting down with the CAC board and talking over what shows haven’t been done in a while, what they can get rights to perform and what’s possible to produce in the space they have,” Mull explained. “Being a historical theater, CAC comes with its challenges. We don’t have all the state-of-the-art technology, and budget is a consideration when choosing a show.”

A Dream Show

Little Shop of Horrors is Mull’s dream show. “When I was in kindergarten, one of my classmates played the plant (Audrey 2) in a high school musical production. We got to go to the theater and see it and I was hooked. A year later, the movie version of the musical came out and I was just obsessed with it. I was in the musical in high school, so the show has great sentimental meaning for me.” 

Mull says that while it’s always been a show he’s wanted to do, there were aspects of the production, namely the puppet of Audrey 2, that were difficult and expensive to produce. This year they had some puppets donated and tech people on the crew have been able to build them out and tailor them for the show. 

Putting on the show

The group decided to perform Little Shop of Horrors in the smaller of the Collingwood Arts Center’s two theater spaces to make it more intimate for the audience.  “We want to make them feel like they’re in 1960s Skid Row in New York City. We have great production and lighting designers who have done an incredible job with the space and, if everything goes right with tech, there might be a big surprise with the plant coming pretty close to the front row,” laughs Mull. Another innovative choice is to use washed-out color and lighting at the show’s beginning and to increase the color intensity as the Audrey 2 plant grows over the course of the show. 

Everyone who auditioned for the show was incredible, Mull said, but there are only eight parts in the production. “We had to say no to really good people, but, in the end, we went with the chemistry between the actors because we are working in such an intimate space,” Mull said. “Uur Seymour (Kameron Girardot) and Audrey (Mara Connor) are great at conveying these unconventional leads and have wonderful chemistry together. Bradley Baker is an opera singer, and if you’re a fan of the movie, you’ll love the way he does the voice for Audrey 2.” 

Mull and the rest of the group are excited to be putting on this show, relating,  “Sometimes I can’t believe I’m directing this show (that)  I grew up with. It’s a little intimidating, but very exciting.”

Little Shop of Horrors May 11 and May 12. Collingwood Arts Center, 2413 Collingwood Blvd. $15. Stone Productions on Facebook. onthestage.tickets/show/collingwood-arts-center 

Recent Articles