Graffitied walls, colorful 1960s-era costumes, authentic props and a really big plant.
It’s difficult to imagine “Little Shop of Horrors” without these items, but somehow, BYU senior Carson Wright is pulling it off.
Wright, a theatre arts education major, is bringing an unconventional production of “Little Shop of Horrors” to the HFAC’s Margetts Arena Theatre Nov. 15. The production was organized and funded entirely by students. The show, originally pitched as a class project, was crafted with the intent of making theater available to people with small budgets, or hypothetically, schools with no theater program at all.
“Aside from being a fun and different approach, my focus is on educational theater,” Wright said. “I am always looking for new creative ways to do music theater, and I thought about how I could do a production with minimal expense that is still exciting and meaningful for students.”
As the show’s director, Wright decided to leave props, elaborate costumes, backgrounds, and the iconic “Audrey II” puppet out of his production. Instead, actors use cardboard boxes for all props, simple lighting changes serve as scene-setters, and the giant man-eating plant is portrayed by a human. The show essentially becomes a black box production, asking audiences to fill in some of the “Little Shop of Horrors” world for themselves.
“I think I am definitely getting across what I wanted as far as the concept goes,” Wright said. “As in any production, audiences are asked to believe what’s going on. Once they get past initial roadblocks, they’re good to go.”
Brandon Roach, a senior from Spanish Fork studying music dance theatre, plays the show’s conflicted protagonist, Seymour Krelborn. He said he originally had doubts about the format of the show, but soon realized the lack of props could be better.
“The first thing you think is that working with a person instead of a puppet would be difficult,” Roach said. “But it’s not a challenge. It’s fun and easy to work with Ted (Bushman, who plays Audrey II), and it’s one of the best parts of the show. A human is more legitimately creepy than a puppet.”
Ted Bushman, a junior from Pittsburgh, serves as the literal personification of Audrey II, the man-eating plant. As a plant from outer space who is silent for much of the show, Bushman had to master when to be still and when to come alive.
“I realized I am a prop for two thirds of the play,” Bushman said. “It’s difficult to act passive while also being an active member of the story.”
Although this production may look different from traditional performances, the show’s integrity is kept intact. With the original “Little Shop of Horrors” music played by a live accompanist and cast members doing what they love, it’s difficult to watch Wright’s production and not grasp the deeper concepts planted under Audrey II’s dark humor.
Cast members discussed lessons to be learned from Seymour and other characters who are blinded by their desires to climb social ladders.
“I think we learn what it is to have a beautiful life,” Bushman said. “Getting to the top is not satisfying and doesn’t really mean anything.”
Lauren Hughes, a junior from Ellensburg, Wash., said Audrey II represents a larger ideal about human nature.
“The biggest evils are hidden in the most innocent of places,” Hughes said. “By the end, an innocent plant turns out to be the most evil of all.”