When Paul Keller learned Jackson County Community Theatre was planning to put on “Little Shop of Horrors” this season, he knew he had to audition.
As a fan of the 1986 comedy film starring Rick Moranis, Steve Martin and Ellen Greene, Keller didn’t care what role he got, as long as he got to be in it.
But the Brownstown resident was a perfect choice for the male lead. Keller is endearing as Seymour Krelborn, the nerdy florist who finds his chance for success and romance with the help of a giant man-eating plant.
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“The Little Shop of Horrors” originally came out as a film in 1960 and was billed a black comedy horror film. A young, and then unknown, Jack Nicholson had a small role. In 1982, it was turned into a horror/comedy rock musical written by Howard Ashman and composed by Alan Menken that eventually made it to Broadway.
“I’ve been watching this show since I was literally a kid,” Keller said. “It’s the one show I’ve always wanted to do my entire life, and that’s no joke.”
Keller has been involved in theater since he was a child and said he is blessed to get the role of Seymour.
“I would have taken anything in the show just to be a part of it,” he said.
Although he’s a choir director at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wegan, Keller said he was still intimidated by the musical and dance numbers and the talent of his co-stars.
“This cast is fantastic,” Keller said. “Everyone works together, and it’s not a competition, and I think that’s what makes the show so much fun.”
His female co-lead, Megan Snyder of North Vernon, is no stranger to the production, either, as she performed in the same show as the same character 10 years ago in Jennings County.
Snyder’s beautiful voice, sweet personality and convincing Brooklyn accent will have the audience rooting for her as Audrey to ditch her abusive boyfriend, sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello, played hilariously by Matt Nieman, to hook up with Seymour.
In the middle of their budding romance is Audrey II, the very interesting and unusual plant Seymour discovers and names. In order to keep Audrey II alive and growing and Mr. Mushnik’s flower shop successful, Seymour must find a way to satisfy the plant’s peculiar appetite for human blood.
“I want the audience to feel every emotion they can possibly feel,” Snyder said of the performance. “Laugh obviously, a little bit of sadness, a little bit of anger. There’s something for everyone.”
Serving as musical narrators are Crystal, Ronnette and Chiffon, a group of high school dropouts turned street urchins hanging out in front of the flower shop on Skid Row.
The group of girls is played by Skyla Fields, Rachel Morris and Stacey Williams.
“Any time I do community theater, I enjoy making new friends,” Williams said. “As a grownup, it’s an experience you don’t get very often.”
This is Williams’ third community theater production. Before moving to Seymour, she taught high school theater in Chicago.
“It’s fun for me to get to be onstage again,” she said. “It’s literally been 20 years since I’ve sung and danced at the same time.”
Although the musical is funny, it’s a dark comedy that includes messages about domestic violence, greed and how a person’s choices impact their lives, she said.
The production is this season’s JCCT annual dinner theater featuring a carved roast buffet at The Pines Evergreen Room. It is being directed by former Seymour resident Paul Angle.
Angle now lives in Indianapolis, where he owns and runs a production company and manages a cinema.
“This has always been one of my favorite shows and I heard JCCT was considering putting it on,” Angle said. “It had been nearly 20 years since my last involvement with them, and I really missed it.”
When it comes to directing, Angle said his favorite aspect is building relationships with the cast and crew.
“For me, the key to putting on a great show is having a cast and crew that have bonded and are all working from the same page,” he said. “As for this show, working with such a great cast has been a joy. They are truly the most talented group I’ve ever worked with.”
Cast members have been rehearsing only since December.
“The first two weeks, we only did music,” Williams said. “We sat around a piano and sang.”
But picking a favorite song or scene proves difficult for the cast.
“I love Act II, ‘The Meek Shall Inherit,’” Williams said. “The girls do a great costume change in the middle of that song, and it’s just a really neat song that really gets to the theme of the show.”
Both Williams and Keller said they also can’t get enough of hearing Snyder sing “Somewhere That’s Green.”
“But I like them all,” Keller said of the musical numbers. “I like the opening chorus ‘Skid Row’ because it’s the one time we all get to be onstage together.”
After a two-week break for the holidays, the cast began rehearsing scenes in the former Hallmark store in Jackson Park Shopping Center in Seymour.
It wasn’t until they acquired the Audrey II plants in mid-January, which required a trip to Cincinnati, that the show really started to come together.
The amazing Audrey II puppet costume is worn by Job Willman with the plant’s voice being provided by Alan Killey.
“It just made it so much fun,” Keller said of rehearsing with the props.
For those wanting to get involved in community theater, cast members say start small.
“There is something for everybody,” Snyder said. “There’s the acting onstage, but there’s also set design, set building, costuming.”
Snyder recommends beginners try out for a production with a large cast.
“Get a small part. See how you like it and how you do,” she said. “Get your one line on the stage, and then you can say, ‘Hey, I was in the program. I was there.’”
Steven Deweese, who plays the crotchety Mr. Mushnik, said everyone should try community theater at least once.
“It’s an escape, getting to pretend you’re somebody else for a while,” Deweese said.
The Jackson County Community Theatre production of “Little Shop of Horrors” is this season’s annual dinner theater featuring a carved roast buffet at The Pines Evergreen Room south of Seymour.
Opening night was Friday, and there was a performance Saturday. It can be seen again Feb. 24 and 25. Dinner starts at 6 p.m., and the performance begins at 7:30 p.m.
Reservations are $30 per person and may be made by calling 812-358-5228 and leaving a message with a name, the night you want to attend and the number of tickets you need or email the same information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Payments for reservations may be mailed to JCCT, P.O. Box 65, Brownstown, IN 47220.
Director: Paul Angle
Assistant director: John Hiester
Music director: Georgiann Coons
Seymour Krelborn: Paul Keller
Audrey: Megan Snyder
Crystal: Skyla Fields
Ronnette: Rachel Morris
Chiffon: Stacey Williams
Mr. Mushnik: Steven Deweese
Orin Scrivello DDS: Matt Nieman
Audrey II: Job Willman (puppeteer); voice by Alan Killey
Street urchins: Karen Haas, Katrina Hardwick and Shonna Wolkov
Set design and construction: Joe Bradley, Joe McGill, Joe Reynolds and Mike Nelson
Costumes: Julie Bradley
Lighting/sound: Aaron Wright
Stage manager: Karen Haas
Choreographer: Katrina Hardwick
Technical consultants: Matt Nieman and Mike Tormoehlen
Orchestra: Dick Parman, Don Klaes, Ron Duncan and Aidan Hauersperger