Players Centre takes a bite out ‘Little Shop of Horrors’

Casey Kelley plays a meek flower shop clerk who discovers a unique plant that requires blood to grow in “Little Shop of Horrors” at the Players Centre.
Casey Kelley plays a meek flower shop clerk who discovers a unique plant that requires blood to grow in “Little Shop of Horrors” at the Players Centre.

Editor’s Note: The Players Centre has delayed the run of “Little Shop of Horrors” until Oct. 12 due to a lack of internet and some damage to the costumes and recasting following Hurricane Ian. Check with the theater about the schedule. 

The man-eating plant Audrey II takes on a different look in the new Players Centre production of the musical hit “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Puppets of different sizes are used in most productions of the Howard Ashman-Alan Menken musical to represent the different stages of life for Audrey II, who requires blood to grow. Director Brian Finnerty wanted something different.

“I love ‘Little Shop’ so much but it’s almost always presented the same exact way, so I usually feel like I have already seen it,” he said. “Plus we’re doing this in the round and that adds complications if I use a puppet. Where am I going to put the puppet without sightline issues?”

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Finnerty’s solution was to cast his friend and frequent collaborator Luke Manual, who will embody Audrey II, an alien plant form, and provide her voice in the production that begins Wednesday. Manual will play the four different stages of Audrey II. Finnerty said the actor can bring life to the plant in ways that puppets can’t.

“Luke is a walking, dancing, fully moving thing,” he said. “It helps keep everything moving and everything fresh and the fact that this plant is an alien makes it work.”

Actor Casey Kelley’s fingers get a workout playing a plant shop employee who must feed blood to one unusual plant in “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Actor Casey Kelley’s fingers get a workout playing a plant shop employee who must feed blood to one unusual plant in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Manual and Finnerty have collaborated as performers and directors on productions presented by the Dingbat Theatre Project.

Finnerty, who also is designing the costumes, said he was inspired by the original 1960 Roger Corman black and white film that inspired the musical. He said it will look greyscale with splashes of bright neon colors at key moments.

The production stars Casey Kelley as Seymour Krelborn, the meek clerk at Mushnik’s flower shop who becomes a star after people become fascinated with the unusual look of Audrey II. Ariel Blue, a frequent performer at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, co-stars as his co-worker and love interest Audrey. Neil Kasanofsky plays Mr. Mushnik, and Cory Woomert portrays several roles, including Audrey’s wicked boyfriend, the dentist Orin Scrivello.

‘Little Shop of Horrors’

By Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Directed by Brian Finnerty. Runs Oct.6-16 at The Players Centre for Performing Arts, 3501 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Suite 1130. Tickets are $30, $13 for students. 941-365-2494; theplayers.org

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This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Players Centre stages ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ with major twist