UH Stages a Wonderfully Monstrous Musical With a Can’t-Miss Killer Plant

In a first-ever large-scale collaboration between University of Houston students and faculty at its Moores School of Music and Theater and Dance Schoolthe university presents the beloved musical Little Shop of Horrors. The show features UH students on stage, in the orchestra pit, and backstage.

The delightfully macabre and positively energetic tale of a giant, murderous plant unfolds May 27-29 at UH’s Moores Opera House. The tickets are available now.

“Our priority is to train students,” Andrew Davis, dean of the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts, which includes the Moores School of Music and the School of Theater & Dance, told CultureMap. “We have great facilities, including the Moores Opera House, where the show will be staged. Everyone involved in the production – the actors, the singers, the designers, the musicians in the pit – are all students of UH is an incredible effort for everyone involved, and it’s a great opportunity for our students.

small shopbased on the 1960 cult film The Little Shop of Horrorsis the story of an unlucky florist named Seymour, madly in love with saleswoman Audrey and deeply abused by her boss.

One day, he designs a factory that he names Audrey II. The gentle gesture becomes macabre: the plant feeds on flesh and blood… and the more it receives, the more it wants.

With book and music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, the dynamic duo behind a string of Disney musical smash hits, including The little Mermaid and The beauty and the Beast – the musical opened Off-Off Broadway in 1982. Over the next 40 years, it played Off-Broadway, on Broadway, on national tours and around the world.

Here in Houston, theater kids from St. Thomas High School put together a production last month, including students from Incarnate Word Academy and Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in the cast. In 1986 it was suitable for the big screen with a cast including Steve Martin, Rick Moranis and Bill Murray.

His catchy tracks include “Somewhere That’s Green”, “Suddenly Seymour”, “Skid Row” and the doo-wop-infused title track “Little Shop of Horrors”. In other words: the show is a crowd pleaser.

“We’re excited to do this,” Davis says. “We looked at many shows and decided that, in size and scope, this was just the thing for us. We didn’t want something obscure and we wanted something that offered the right roles. to our students and which had broad appeal.”

But there’s more to it for the Coogs than just putting on a show that audiences will love. small shop marks the university’s first musical in more than 30 years, according to Davis.

While the university has staged productions in the past, in recent decades the school has focused on both classical music and classical theater training; think of opera and Shakespeare. Somehow, Davis notes, the musical formation on Broadway was abandoned.

small shop not only opens up a renewed sense of collaboration between the Moores School of Music and the School of Theater & Dance.

“Students come to us from here in Houston, from across the state, from across the country. We want to make sure they have a strong foundation in all of the performing arts,” David adds. “And when you look at the arts in Houston, there are opportunities for actors, musicians, and designers. We want our students to graduate from our program and be able to stay in Houston knowing they can earn a living. doing what they love. All of us in Houston have a role to play in building and sustaining our arts ecosystem.”

Davis’ commitment to his school and his students is evident in his enthusiasm for the project. And while those involved in this Little Shop production are thrilled with the opportunities it’s providing its students, they’re also eagerly awaiting what it means for audiences, and they’re banking on the idea that theatergoers will see UH as a producer. of incredible work.

“I think our audience is going to be surprised to see this type of performance at Moores Opera House,” said manager Nicole Kenley-Miller, of Moores Opera House. “The space is typically used for concerts and operas, but we’ll be testing the limits of what the space can do in terms of decor, lighting and sound design.”

Essential to any Little Shop design is Audrey II, this carnivorous plant begging Seymour to “feed me all night”. The factory and several other puppets figure prominently in the production. For the UH release, Afsaneh Aayani, who earned her master’s degree in scenic design from UH, is taking the lead, with Alley Theatre’s Tony Award nominee Kevin Rigdon serving as an adviser. Aayani already has an acclaimed young designer, with a 2020 USITT Scenic Design Award under her belt.

“The plant will offer a big surprise at the end!” exclaims Kenley-Miller.

Audiences can also expect to see up-and-coming talent on the UH stage. The Cougars already have a long track record of producing great, Houston-native actors Brent Spine of star trek fame and Jim Parson of Broadway and The Big Bang Theory among them. It’s also an opportunity to see how collaboration happens university-wide.

Fair to say, then, the public will eat this.

Little Shop of Horrors runs Friday, May 27 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday 28 May at 2 p.m. and 7.30 p.m.; and Sunday May 29 at 2 p.m. General public tickets are $30 and $25 for UH alumni, students, faculty, and staff (and seniors). Buy your tickets online.