Theatre at the Center’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors’
By Don Snider July 3, 2012 1:34PM
"Little Shop of Horrors" features a score co-written by Alan Menken. | AP file photo
‘LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS’
◆ July 12-Aug. 19, with an official opening on July 15
Performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays and 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, with select Thursday evening and Saturday matinee shows
◆ Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Ind.
◆ Tickets, $38 to $42
◆ (219) 836-3255 or (800) 511-1552;
Updated: August 7, 2012 6:10AM
Eating green is good. Being eaten by green is … well, not very appetizing.
But as a subject for a romantic musical comedy, it was totally unexpected back in 1960 when a Roger Corman film hit the screen and then was made into a blockbuster stage show.
“Little Shop of Horrors” has been making the community and regional theater rounds ever since.
This time the show comes to Theatre at the Center in Munster, Ind., from July 12-Aug. 19.
“Little Shop of Horrors” is one of those infectious comedies that audiences remember long after leaving the theater. And so do the actors.
Jonathan Lee Cunningham, a Theatre at the Center veteran, performed the lead role of Seymour in the play 15 years ago while a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“I recall it well,” he said. “I was 19 and it only played for two performances, but the lines and lyrics have stayed with me. I remember them word by word, note by note.”
Even though Cunningham, a Schaumburg resident and graduate of Conant High School in Hoffman Estates, didn’t major in theater at U of I, his wife, Michelle, also loved the stage so much that she encouraged him to make a career of it.
He performed on a lot of community stages such as at the Big Noise Theatre Company, a division of Winnetka Theatre, before moving up to equity theater gigs.
His wife worked behind the scenes while he performed, and they met such people as director Bill Pullinsi and choreographer-director Stacey Flaster, who would become influential at Theater at the Center and head this performance.
“I had seen the movie (remade in 1986 and starring Rick Moranis) before I played Seymour at U of I, so I knew this role was right up my alley,” Cunningham said.
Seymour is a nerdy, down-and-out florist shop worker who discovers an exotic plant.
It attracts new clients to the shop, but Seymour also learns that the plant has an unusual craving for fresh human blood.
Seymour is caught up in his new success and finds he can’t resist giving the plant what it wants. He even names the plant Audrey II after his secret love.
Meanwhile, the man-eating plant grows larger and larger and more and more out of control.
Cunningham has played a number of key Theater at the Center roles such as Danny in “Baby,” Motel in “Fiddler on the Roof” and Ambrose in “Hello, Dolly!”
But none has given him the spotlight like “Little Shop of Horrors,”
“I’m on stage about 90 to 95 percent of the time,” he said. “But this is a perfect cast.”
Audrey is played by Tiffany Trainer, who just finished performing in “My Fair Lady” and “A Chorus Line” at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora.
Rod Thomas, a popular triple threat (song and dance actor), plays the darkly comic role of the Dentist, and Peter Kevoian portrays Mr. Mushnik, the shop owner.
It takes two to play Audrey II: Stanley White as the Voice and Scott Stratton as the Plant Op.
Speaking of dark, this stage version has a different, darker ending than the movie.
“Actually, this show is very subversive for a musical comedy,” Cunningham said.
“As actors, we have to toe the line between being funny and touching, yet dealing with the idea that Seymour allows people to die so he can feed the plant.”
To paraphrase Kermit the Frog, it’s not easy being eaten by green.
Don Snider is a local freelance writer.