SPRING HILL — Can a show be ghoulish and funny at the same time?
Is it really okay to laugh at a man-eating plant or a sadist who beats up his girlfriend?
Are you el-sicko if you think a killer is charming?
That's the challenge for Little Shop of Horrors, a comedy horror rock musical opening Thursday at Stage West Community Playhouse.
It's the fanciful tale of how nerdy Seymour Krelborn (Keith Surplus, Charlie Award as Cornelius in Hello, Dolly! at Richey Suncoast Theatre) finds success and true love while working at the Skid Row Florists, thanks to a mysterious plant that thrives on human blood and carcasses.
His true love is unfashionable Audrey (Victoria Primosch, four-time HAMI winner, Roxie in Chicago), who also works at the florist shop.
Audrey dates the violently sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello (Paul Wade, seven-time HAMI winner, Javert, Les Miserables), but she secretly loves Seymour. But Seymour thinks Audrey loves him only because of the fame he owes to Audrey II (James Muriel), the ravenous plant he discovered after it appeared during a sudden eclipse of the sun.
The action is set to a rock/ pop/doo-wop score, sung by a street-wise trio — Crystal (Lizz Voorhees, Ruth in Harvey), Ronnette (Kristen Ballard, Chava in Fiddler Jr.) and Chiffon (Jada Crandle, Little Inez in Hairspray) — and a six-member chorus.
The musical is a spoof of horror films, suburbia, and the business world, especially greedy bosses like shop owner Mr. Mushnick (Stan Kane, Craven in The Secret Garden), who goes to any lengths to make a buck, right up to and including adopting the gullible Seymour so that the famous plant will stay in his shop.
Meanwhile, Audrey dreams of a place far away from trashy Skid Row out in the ticky-tacky suburbs, with a tract house, frozen TV dinners, a chain link fence, a 12-inch television set and sturdy plastic on all the furniture — all described in the number, Somewhere That's Green.
Little Shop started as a low-budget ($27,000 total) movie in 1960 and became a hit Off-Off-Broadway musical in 1982. A movie musical version with Rick Moranis, Steve Martin and Bill Murray was released in 1986. The show made it to Broadway for a year, 2003-04, and it has been a favorite in community and regional theaters from the day performing rights became available.
Stage West first did Little Shop in 2003 as a summer special, and audiences loved it. So it's no surprise in a season with several reprises that Stage West would bring back one of its favorites.
Even if it sounds gory, it's really suitable for all ages.