Horrors! It’s Audrey II

The true star of “Little Shop of Horrors” is the giant muppet-like plant. And Audrey II is a maneater.

Of course Seymour, who works at Mushnik’s Skid Row Florists, knows. He is secretly in love with his co-worker Audrey, and named the mysterious plant that resembles a large Venus flytrap Audrey II in her honor.

Audrey II grows and becomes an attraction, and business is better than ever. But Seymour knows of Audrey II’s thirst for blood and so do the urchins.

But then again, they know everything — the whens, wheres and hows.

So, when anyone disappears in New Venture Theatre’s production of Alan Menken’s musical, “Little Shop of Horrors,” they’re aren’t phased.

“They’re like the Greek chorus,” says Shanna Burris, who plays the urchin Chiffon in the show, which opens Thursday in Independence Park Theatre. Chiffon is in the middle of older sister Ronnette, played by April Washington, and kid sister Crystal, played by Angel Bailey.

“The urchins operate as a group, but they aren’t written as sisters, but we made them sisters for this show,” Burris says.

And the trio has become as close as sisters after weeks of rehearsals.

“It’s funny, because here we are laughing and having a good time, and suddenly it occurs to us that, ‘Hey, someone just got killed,’” says Washington, who is known as April Louise in this show.

The urchins are the punctuation for this story written by Howard Ashman. “Little Shop of Horrors” is billed as a comedy horror rock musical.

The musical is based on the low-budget, Roger Corman-directed 1960 black comedy film “The Little Shop of Horrors,” and spoofs the sci-fi and horror genres of the 1950s.

The production premiered off Broadway in 1982 at the Orpheum Theatre in Manhattan’s East Village and ranked as the highest grossing production in off-Broadway history after 2,209 performances on Nov. 1, 1987. The show finally made its Broadway debut on Oct. 2, 2003, in the Virginia Theatre.

All three of the urchins have appeared in locally filmed Hollywood movies. They each have a story, Bailey’s being one of the most curious.

“I played a student in Nicolas Cage’s classroom in the movie, ‘Seeking Justice,’” she says.

Cage plays a New Orleans high school teacher seeking vengeance for the brutal beating of his wife in that film.

“He walked in and didn’t say anything to anyone,” Bailey continues. “He just stared at us. He didn’t talk to anyone on the set. We were told that’s how he is. Some actors get into character and stay in character while filming.”

But the urchins talk to anyone and everyone. It’s one reason director Ashley D. Self cast them in these parts — they click.

“This is my first time directing a major musical,” says Self, who double cast the voice and puppeteer for Audrey II. Both Ahmad Harris and Carrie Lands will be playing her, each bringing their own style to the character.

“There are more than 20 people in this cast, and there are a lot of technical aspects to it,” Self continues. “And the music was recorded by a live band on a disc, so we won’t have the advantage of having a live band in this show. But it’s all coming together.”

And, watching the urchins interact, there’s no doubt about that.

CAST: Brian Jordan, Seymour; Hope Landor, Audrey; Clarence Crockett, Mr. Mushnik; Michael Russ, Orin; Angel Bailey, Crystal; April Louise, Ronnette; Shanna Burris, Chiffon; Ahmad Harris, Audrey II/Puppeteer; Carrie Lands, Audrey II/Puppeteer; Alvin A. Temple, Mrs. Luce, Photographer, Announcer, Mr. Bernstein, Patrick Martin, Mrs. Peters, Mrs. Nelson, Reporter, Agent; Seanre Harding, Wino; Kristie Ambrose, Wino; Pit Singers: LaNea Wilkinson, Kassandra Gardner, Adele Dixon, Christian Deon, Michael Russ.

ARTISTIC STAFF: Ashley D. Self, Director; Michael Russ, Set Designer; Laneka Wilkinson Batiste, Musical Director; Brian D. Jordan, Choreographer; Christopher D. Daniel, Production Man ager; LaClaudium Ootsey, Stage Manager; Clarence Crockett, Assistant Director.