Little Shop of Horrors, Miami style

Junior Carlos Guerrero plays the part of Seymour alongside Alecsys Proctor-Turner's Audrey. The Ring Theatre production of "Little Shop of Horrors" runs through Oct. 5. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami

By Deserae E. del Campo

Junior Carlos Guerrero plays the part of Seymour alongside Alecsys Proctor-Turner's Audrey. The Ring Theatre production of "Little Shop of Horrors" runs through Oct. 5. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami

Little Shop of Horrors, Miami style

By Deserae E. del Campo
The Ring Theatre kicks off its 2019-2020 season with a cult classic.

“Feed me, Seymour! Feed me!”

Those five words spoken (yes, spoken) by a man-eating plant may be familiar to anyone who loves “Little Shops of Horrors,” the off-Broadway musical that premiered in 1982 and morphed into a celebrated comedy sci-fi flick in 1986. But when senior Carter Nash utters them tonight on the stage of the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre they’ll have a decidedly Miami spin.

Playing the part of Audrey II in the first production of the Ring’s 2019-20 season, Nash won’t acquire his voice and appetite for human blood and flesh in a flower shop on L.A. or New York’s Skid Row, as many Audrey IIs before him have done after suddenly appearing during a solar eclipse. Instead, by some mystic force, he’ll blossom into a green monster in a typical Miami botanica, the little shops where practitioners of Santeria and voodoo can buy remedies, potions, and spiritual objects.

And instead of being the voice of the ever-growing puppets used in most productions, Nash will be dressed in a full-body costume that took set designer Arnold Bueso, an assistant professor in the Theatre Arts Department, all summer to design and build.

“So it’s more like a humanoid plant,” said Nash, who had to learn to walk on stilts for the reimagined part. “It was difficult, but so much fun. Since most stage productions use puppets, I couldn’t find a reference point on how an alien plant should move on stage. But after a lot of conversations with my director, we decided that Audrey II should have a very loose and free-flowing movement.”

Buseo, who was born in Honduras but grew up in the Miami neighborhood where the play takes place, said he borrowed a lot of the imagery in the set from his experiences around Miami, from Biscayne Boulevard to Little Haiti to Little Havana.

“Several of our cast members are also Miami natives, so this particular production is very special to those of us who have grown up here,” Buseo said.

Indeed, the show’s director, Greg Brown, who is also the production’s music director, believes this uniquely Miami reimaging of “Little Shop of Horrors” will not only resonate with local audiences, but make them fans of the play that is still performed all over the world by colleges, community theaters, and in many Broadway revivals.

“Great comedies, and I consider “Little Shop of Horrors” to be one, succeed when the comedy can be rooted in something real and something relatable,” Brown said. “In crafting our storytelling around aspects of our environment that are recognizable, and approaching casting as a means of reflecting the world we encounter each day, especially the full diaspora of backgrounds, cultures, and people that Miami represents, I hope we deepen people’s understanding and appreciation for this iconic play.”

Like Nash, many of the actors could relate, because they, too, are from South Florida.

Miami native and senior Alecsys Proctor-Turner, who plays the lead female role of Audrey, said she changed Audrey’s character to reflect herself—a very strong, independent black woman.

“I made her more realistic and more relatable, especially for people who try their hardest to be something they are not because they don’t think they are worthy,” Proctor-Turner said. “Audrey has arc throughout the production. She learns to love herself. In order for me to relate to this character, I had to find those times in my life when I felt that I wasn’t enough and show how I overcame those obstacles.”

Junior Carlos Guerrero, who plays the part of Seymour, said his very large Hispanic family was to attend Thursday’s opening night—his very first lead in a musical production.

“I’m very excited to be working on the show,” he said. “It’s been a great experience.”

Which is exactly what Michael Bush, artistic director of the Ring Theatre, said this and every season is all about. “Our shows are all about the students and giving them the best experience possible, while also training them professionally,” he said. “The audience is there to watch our students learn their craft. We are letting them into our artistic laboratory.”

“Little Shop of Horrors,” which runs through October 5, will be followed by “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” (November 14-23) a musical by Rupert Holmes, which won the Tony Award in 1986 for Best Musical; “The Trojan Women,” (February 20-29) which is an all-female cast; and “American Idiot,” (April 16-25) an electric-rock musical with a strong social message that is based on Green Day’s Grammy Award-winning multi-platinum album of the same name.

For more information or to buy tickets for “Little Shop of Horrors” or other upcoming shows, visit https://ring-theatre.as.miami.edu/index.html.