Live audiences will return to The Ren with Little Shop of Horrors
CLOSE Buy Photo Orin Scrivello DDS (Scott Leon Smith), right, tries to persuade Seymour (Ryan
Orin Scrivello DDS (Scott Leon Smith), right, tries to persuade Seymour (Ryan Shreve) during an early scene in Little Shop of Horrors. (Photo: Zach Tuggle/News Journal)
MANSFIELD – As actors and actresses took their places on The Renaissance Theatre stage, Ryan Shealy was thrilled live performances of “Little Shop of Horrors” would finally take place this weekend and next.
“We’ve felt comfortable enough with vaccines and everything to open back up,” the musical’s director said.
Curtain times are 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, then again 8 p.m. April 24 and 2:30 p.m. April 25. Doors open 30 minutes before each performance.
Ticket prices start at $15 and are available online at www.rentickets.org.
Unique spin on famous story
Little Shop of Horrors was made famous with the 1986 film by Rick Moranis, who played the lead role of an assistant in the unusual flower shop. The theatrical version of the tale has been told many times in the decades since, but never quite the way it will be depicted this weekend in Mansfield.
“We’re a professional theater,” Shealy said. “We want to do this in a way that fits with that — we’re bringing it up to our standard.”
It all started with a set designed by Michael Thomas, the artistic director for The Ren.
“He’s very encouraging in being unique and helping us tell the story our own way,” Shealy said of Thomas.
Those who attend this weekend and next also will be treated by a cast and crew not found anywhere other than the largest performing arts center in North-Central Ohio.
“We have a very tight-knit company here of incredibly talented, multi-talented people,” Shealy said. “It’s kind of mind blowing.”
Show was uncertain for months
It was that sort of talent needed to overcome the uncertainty of the pandemic. They were cast more than a year ago, then the venue was shut down because of COVID.
The actors and actresses were told the show would likely take place, but there were no guarantees when.
“It changed a lot,” Shealy said. “At one point it was going to be in October.”
Scott Leon Smith, center, has several miniature roles throughout the performance. (Photo: Zach Tuggle/News Journal)
When restrictions brought on by the pandemic started to loosen this spring, staff at The Ren realized it was time to resume live performances — about 300 of the venue’s 1,400 seats can be filled with guests.
Thespians were notified in mid-March of the decision to reopen the theater. The cast of Little Shop of Horrors only had about three weeks to memorize their lines and make the show a success.
“This has been one of our quicker turnarounds,” Shealy said.
Show will debut actress Skaggs
Everyone involved with the production has responded to the short timeline very well.
The quick pace has been fun, said Ryan Shreve, the lead actor who plays Seymour, the assistant in the bizarre flower shop.
“We have other shows coming up,” he calmly explained.
In Little Shop of Horrors, Shreve’s character is infatuated with Audrey, played by Emma Skaggs, a good friend of Shreve’s.
Skaggs grew up in Georgia and moved to Columbus last year. This will be her first major performance since graduating high school two years ago.
“I was supposed to be in a show last spring, but that was shut down because of quarantine,” Skaggs said.
She received her script last month and immediately started memorizing Audrey’s lines. It was the shortest preparation she’s ever had.
“I didn’t have very many lines to memorize,” Skaggs said. “But it’s still been kind of an adjustment.”
Unrequited love leads to horror
The flower shop is found in a questionable part of town. It’s been home to Seymour most of his life — he was an orphan and was adopted by the shop’s owner to be used as free labor.
Then came along Audrey. Her bright pink hair added color to his drab life, but his love for her was unrequited.
“She’s dating someone else,” Shreve explained. “An abusive dentist who has an addiction to causing others pain.”
The lead actor grew up in Ashland and has lived in Mansfield the past several years. He’s no stranger to audiences at The Ren, and said he thinks guests will particularly enjoy this show because its music is by Alan Menken, who wrote many of the songs in Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Pocahontas and others.
Plant eats blood to gain power
The glee of the show turns to gloom, though, when Seymour is distracted from his love for Audrey.
“He comes across this strange and terrible plant,” Shreve said. “It promises him everything he wants in life, but it comes at a terrible cost.”
That menacing flower is performed by Condrea Webber, a Mansfield native who has been performing at The Ren for the past 13 years.
“This is home to me,” Webber said of the theater. “It’s a big family here.”
The past year has been abnormal for the actress because of COVID. In January, she performed in “Dreamgirls,” a production the theater recorded and streamed online.
“We didn’t have an audience for that,” Webber said. “We’re excited to get that energy back from the crowd.”
And she is excited to steal that crowd from the lead performers, maybe even in a deadly manner if necessary. It wouldn’t be the first time she used Seymour’s naivety to help her eat an innocent bystander.
“The plant is promising him this fabulous life,” Webber said. “That’s enticing him to give her more blood.”
The plants unexplainable powers allow her to help Seymour, which in turn causes her to grow legs.
“She talks and she can move and eventually she thinks she can do anything she wants,” Webber said. “The more she eats, the more powerful she gets.”
Those who dare watch how the gruesome comedy unfolds are required to wear face masks for their own protection.
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