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That Mean Green Mother from Outer Space Is Back in North Carolina Theatre’s “Little Shop of Horrors”

That mean green mother from Outer Space is back. The North Carolina Theatre will bring Audrey II, the wonderfully wicked man-eating plant of the rollicking rock-and-roll musical LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, back to Raleigh Memorial Auditorium for 11 performances, starting today with a special $10-per-person Student Preview Night (see end Note 1 below for details), officially opening on Saturday night, and playing this Sunday and next Tuesday through Sunday.

This handsome home-grown production of the immensely popular Broadway musical, based on a schlocky 1960 horror film directed by Roger Corman and starring Jack Nicholson, will be directed and choreographed by NCT artistic director Casey Hushion, who is the assistant director of the Tony Award®-winning Broadway musical IN THE HEIGHTS and previously directed 15 critically acclaimed productions for the Raleigh, NC-based regional theater, including Yeston and Kopit’s PHANTOM, CHESS, THE KING AND I with movie star Lou Diamond Phillips, and JEKYLL & HYDE with rock star Sebastian Bach.

“I saw this show when it played the Orpheum Theatre many years ago,” notes director/choreographer Casey Hushion. “I remember it vividly — it was such a wonderful production. I have had the pleasure of directing the show twice before — once here at NCT for the Kids on Broadway program in 2002 and then last year at Casa Manana Theatre in Texas.”

“She adds, “I think LITTLE SHOP is a perfectly constructed piece of theater. It takes you on such a thrilling ride and is such a surprisingly heartfelt and soulful story.”

Noah Putterman as Seymour (photo courtesy Curtis Brown Photography)

Gina Milo as Audrey (photo courtesy Curtis Brown Photography)

The North Carolina Theatre‘s current production of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS stars Noah Putterman as nerdy — and oh so needy — Skid-Row flower-shop clerk Seymour Krelborn; Gina Milo as Audrey, the ditzy blonde bombshell on whom Seymour has a monster crush; Stephen Berger as Seymour and Audrey’s cranky employer, Mr. Mushnik; and Evan Casey as Audrey’s handsome but violently abusive boyfriend Orin Scrivello, DDS.

Michael James Leslie co-stars as the Voice of Audrey II, the marvelous, murderous, rapidly growing alien puppet designed by The Jim Henson Company and Martin P. Robinson and manipulated for this production by Parker Fitzgerald. A strange and exotic new out-of-this-world plant species that Seymour discovers and names for his beloved fellow flower-shop clerk, Audrey II grows from a medium-sized houseplant at curtain rise to a monstrous plant the size of a compact car by the end of the show.

Rebecca Covington, Natalie Renee, and Danielle K. Thomas will play Skid-Row songbirds Ronnette, Crystal, and Chiffon, respectively, and double as Street Urchins.

When the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium curtain rises, director and choreographer Casey Hushion says, “Seymour (Noah Putterman) loves two things: a beautiful, way-out-of-his-league girl named Audrey (Gina Milo) and interesting, unusual plants. As a down-and-out Skid-Row floral assistant, he never dreamed that discovering an exotic plant, named Audrey II (voice of Michael James Leslie and manipulation by Parker Fitzgerald) with a mysterious craving for fresh blood would turn him into an overnight sensation!

“Little Shop of Horrors is an affectionate rock-n-roll spoof of 1950s sci-fi movies that will have you laughing and dancing in your seats,” says Hushion.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is based on director Roger Corman’s legendary low-budget 1960 horror film, shot in only two days. It features music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman, and a book Ashman based on the screenplay by Charles Griffith. (Impressed by the frisky melodies and biting lyrics of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, Disney recruited Menken and Ashman to write songs for its animated motion-picture versions of THE LITTLE MERMAID, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and ALADDIN.) The science-fiction/horror musical debuted Off Broadway on May 6, 1982 at the WPA Theatre, subsequently transferred to the Orpheum Theatre on July 27, 1982, and ran for 2,209 performances overall.

The musical version of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS was filmed in 1986, with Frank Oz directing and Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene starring as Seymour and Audrey and Vincent Gardenia and Steve Martin co-starring as Mr. Mushnik and Orin. (Greene is the only performer from the cast of the Off-Broadway production to appear in the movie.)

The motion-picture version of the Off-Broadway musical received two 1987 Academy Award nominations — for Best Effects, Visual Effects (Lyle Conway, Bran Ferren, and Martin Gutteridge) and for Best Music, Original Song (composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman for “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space,” a new song written expressly for the film and not part of the stage musical).

The Broadway production of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, directed by Jerry Zaks and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, opened on Oct. 2, 2003 at the Virginia Theatre, and ran for 372 performances. The show received one 2004 Tony Award® nomination — for Best Actor in a Musical (Hunter Foster as Seymour).

North Carolina Theatre artistic director Casey Hushion claims, “The challenge, and the joy, of this show are in the coordination of the special effect and plant puppeteering. It takes an incredible amount of detailed work to get the actors who are creating the plant to work together as one and to maintain the illusion perfectly for the audience. I would love to tell you more, but I don’t want to reveal the tricks behind the magic!”

In addition to director and choreographer Casey Hushion, the NCT creative team for LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS includes producer Carolee Baxter; musical director Julie Bradley; assistant director Todd Michel Smith; technical director Bill Yates, Jr.; lighting designer John Bartenstein; costume designer Ann M. Bruskiewitz; properties manager Laurie Johnson; sound designer Shannon Slaton; and stage manager Candace E. Hoffman. The show’s scenery will be provided by Theatre Under the Stars of Houston, TX.

Director/choreographer Casey Hushion says, “The set embodies the essence of Skid Row — a busted, depressed cityscape which illustrates the life the characters long to escape.

She adds, “The lighting is key in LITTLE SHOP — it has a modern rock-and-roll sensibility and helps lift us out of Skid Row and into fantasy and theatricality as needed….

“The costumes are very character-specific for this particular show,” claims Casey Hushion. “There are some flashy moments and a few hat-trick quick-changes; but, overall, they help add to the reality of who these people are.”

SECOND OPINION: Sept. 16th Raleigh, NC WRAL-TV interview with Gina Milo: http://www.wral.com/entertainment/video/8302017/#/vid8302017; and Sept. 15th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Katelyn Ferral: http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/09/15/681613/a-playful-passion-that-pushes.html.

The North Carolina Theatre presents LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 Student Preview Night, 8 p.m. Sept. 18 Opening Night, 2 p.m. Sept. 19, 8 p.m. Sept. 21-24, 2 and 8 p.m. Sept. 25, and 2 and 7 p.m. Sept. 26 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $20-$80, except $10 Student Preview Night on Sept. 17th.

BOX OFFICE:

NCT Box Office: 919/831-6941.

Ticketmaster: 800/745-3000, 919/834-4000, or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/820939.

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): dmullins@nctheatre.com or http://nctheatre.com/theatre/group_sales.html.

SHOW: http://nctheatre.com/theatre/little_shop_of_horrors.html.

PRESENTER: http://www.nctheatre.com/. NCT BLOG: http://northcarolinatheatre.blogspot.com/.

VENUE: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/page.php?mode=privateview&pageID=21.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://nctheatre.com/theatre/directions_parking.html.

NOTE 1: There will be a special $10-per-person Student Preview Night performance at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 17th, followed by a question-and-answer session featuring members of the cast and crew. Students and educators with ID may reserve tickets by telephoning 919/831-6941, ext. 6944, and pick them up at Will Call, starting at 6 p.m. For more information about Student Preview Night: http://nctheatre.com/conservatory/student_preview_night.html.

NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 2 p.m. Sept. 25th performance.

OTHER LINKS:

The Musical: http://www.mtishows.com/show_detail.asp?showid=000188 (Music Theatre International) and http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=11223 (Internet Broadway Database).

The Films: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054033/ (1960 horror film) and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091419/ (1986 musical) (Internet Movie Database).

Casey Hushion: http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=417670 (Internet Broadway Database).

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

To start your FREE subscription to this newsletter, e-mail RobertM748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TTR in the Subject: line.

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