The departments of music and theatre at Murray State University will present the fantastical and fun musical, “Little Shop of Horrors,” in the Robert E. Johnson Theatre on the Murray State main campus beginning Sept. 29. Each fall, the departments of music and theatre join together to produce a musical that features the talents of students.

Modeled after the 1986 film, the “Little Shop of Horrors” rock musical is about a lonely shop worker who raises a bloodthirsty plant, hoping that it will bring him love, fame and fortune. The colorful score, composed by Alan Menken of recent Disney film fame, is influenced by the sounds of 50s and 60s rock-and-roll and Motown. The show will feature theatre and music students and a rock band conducted by music professor Todd Hill, and it will be fully staged with costumes and scenery.

The musical centers around Seymour, his wannabe girlfriend Audrey and the alien bloodthirsty plant, Audrey II. The musical revolves around a floral shop on skid row where the shop owner, Mushnick, tolerates Seymour’s irks and ills. When Seymour learns that the plant he found needs blood to survive, Mushnick, Audrey, a scheming and pain-loving dentist and other shop visitors soon become meals for the large plant.

Maribeth Crawford, music professor, directs the production.

“Our production, although very standard, seeks to tell a story rather than overemphasizing the characters in a caricature-like fashion. Above all, these flawed characters represent raw human emotion: greed, loneliness, empathy and even malice. Furthermore, this musical combines themes of the Faust legend within the landscape of classic sci-fi B movies and musical influences of an ancient Greek chorus with 50s and 60s rock-and-roll and Motown.”

In fact, the show had its beginnings as sci-fi. A very young Jack Nicholson starred in the early film version of the play when it was not a musical and was considered a serious look at aliens on Earth.

The production utilizes four Audrey II puppets to represent the man-eating plant. The actor portraying Seymour must manipulate the two smaller hand puppets onstage. The two larger puppets, weighing 300 and 600 pounds, are manipulated from the inside of the puppet. It takes two actors to operate the plant puppets. The puppeteers learn to move the plant in time with the dialogue and the singing, which are supplied by another actor who resides outside of the puppet. The puppeteers inside the plant get a good workout at every rehearsal and performance.

Performances will take place in the Robert E. Johnson Theatre on Murray State University’s main campus. The theatre is located in the Doyle Fine Arts Building, situated at the corner of 15th and Olive Streets in Murray. Performances are Sept. 29–Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 2 at 2:30 p.m. The public is welcome and can purchase tickets at murraystatetickets.com or by calling 270-809-4421. Season subscriptions at a two-for-one price are available through the close of the show.

Other shows this season include “Treasure Island,” “All in the Timing” and “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.” The last show will feature local actor W. Earl Brown in the role of Big Daddy, unless his shooting schedule does not allow him to visit Murray State for the rehearsal process. Should that be the case, the performance will be changed to “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare.

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