FAIRFIELD — A list of the best-known comedy horror rock musicals would probably not be that long.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” would definitely be on it, but the darkly comic “Little Shop of Horrors” would surely top the list.
The story of a man-eating plant from outer space was made into a movie in 1960 by B-movie king Roger Corman and featured an appearance by a young Jack Nicholson. It was transformed into an off-Broadway musical in 1982 and the musical in turn was adapted into a motion picture starring Rick Moranis in 1986.
Missouri Street Street Theatre’s route to staging the show with its pre-teen and teen cast was circuitous. They were scheduled to do it last year, but hit an unexpected snag.
“The rights company told us we couldn’t do it because the national touring company was coming through, so we instead did ‘Once on This Island,’ “ said director Dae Spering. “They told us they would give it to us in six months, but we had already planned to do ‘Les Miserables’ at that time, so we just switched them and it worked out well.”
Spering is no stranger to “Little Shop,” as she has starred in the show three times and directed it twice. The reasons she keeps revisiting the show are varied.
“I just love the story. It is very fanciful and has strong characters. It’s super dark, but very funny,” Spering said. “The music was written by major Disney writers, who wrote the music for ‘Aladdin’ and ‘The Little Mermaid,’ ”
One of the main characters in the play is the Audrey II, the plant that grows throughout the story. While the voice is supplied by 18-year-old Kyle Pazdel, the onstage character will be brought to life by a succession of five puppets similar to ones MST used in their award-winning production of “Avenue Q.”
Spering is quick to point out that while the show is being performed by children 11 and older (the younger ones did “101 Dalmatians”) her cast features very experienced young people.
“I know that veteran is usually a word that you use for people in their 20s and 30s, but the two leads in ‘Little Shop,’ Juls Romualdi (Audrey) and Kyle Legacion (Seymour), have done just as many shows as half the adults had in ‘The Music Man’ (Missouri Street Theatre’s last production),” Spering said. “Having such a strong group of kids allows me to do harder material. I don’t have to do ‘The Sound of Music.’ I can do ‘Little Shop’ because these kids are so advanced in their knowledge of theater.”
Romualdi and Legacion are both 16-year-old sophomores at Rodriguez High School and have performed in numerous theatrical productions for Missouri Street Theatre and others.
Legacion is excited to be playing Seymour and finds it challenging.
“It is a really voice intensive show and I like all the action, “ he said. “It’s also fun to be performing with Juls. We have known each other for a long time so its natural interacting with her on stage and it’s fun having her as my leading lady.”
Romualdi enjoys the complexity of her character as well.
“Audrey is comic relief, but also there is a serious side to her character, because she is beat up by her boyfriend,” Romualdi said.”There are elements of the show that are dark, but there is always comedy to them. I like Audrey because she is timid, but has this side that is so passionate and I am like that. I also feel comfortable onstage with Kyle because we have done so many shows together.”
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at email@example.com