The Conundrum Theatre Company delivered a show-stopping production of “Little Shop of Horrors” at the Victory Theatre Center on the weekend of Friday, May 19, through Sunday, May 21.
The fan-favorite musical comedy, featuring lyrics and a book by Howard Ashman paired with music by Alan Menken, follows the journey of flower shop employee Seymour as he encounters a blood-thirsty plant whom he names Audrey II.
The original production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” which seeks inspiration from the 1960 Roger Corman film of the same name, debuted at Ashman’s WPA Theater in May 1982. After a triumphant opening, “Little Shop” moved on to the Orpheum Theatre, gained a film adaptation in 1986 and was later on Broadway from 2003 to 2004.
In this charming iteration by the Conundrum Theatre Company, Jake Marshall starred as Seymour, Nikki Yates portrayed Audrey, and Burbank Cultural Arts Commission member Eric Conner played Mr. Mushnik. Other cast members included Luke Steinborn as Orin, Omari Miller as Audrey II, and Zoe Godfrey-Grinage, Christina Carrera and Joyce Blackmon as Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette. Over the course of the weekend, four total performances were presented to the public.
The Conundrum Theatre Company is a Burbank-based nonprofit whose objectives include putting on “classic, lesser-known musicals with contemporary staging to create an exciting and affordable experience for audience members,” per the CTC’s site. The company also provides artistic workshops and explores original plays and musicals made by local creatives.
The play was directed by Jess Jani and assistant directed by Bimei Flores, who are both Burbank residents. Furthermore, the two made cameos in “Little Shop” with individual voice roles. Additionally, Jordan Kaiser served as the production manager. Jani detailed the process of bringing the well-loved tale to the Victory Theatre stage.
“It’s been such a fun ride getting to know these iconic characters and their stories on such a deep level,” Jani said. “At its core, ‘Little Shop’ is a story about the pursuit of happiness and what a person will sacrifice — no pun intended — to achieve that happiness. It’s a cult classic for a reason, and our talented cast accentuates the fun, zany spirit the show has to offer.”
During auditions, CTC crew members asked 90 hopefuls to sing 16-32 bars of musical numbers, chosen by the performers, in the same vein of the “Little Shop” song list. Candidates who made a strong impression were then assigned portions of songs from “Little Shop” to learn in a short amount of time, and a select number made the cut for callbacks. At this time, the casting department “got to really play by pairing different people up and seeing how far they were willing to go with their characters,” Jani said. The final group is a gifted cast of 12 entertainers whose vocal and acting chops delighted spectators at the Victory.
“Our goal was to lean into the campy nature of the show, so when casting, we were looking for people who weren’t afraid to laugh at themselves,” Jani said. “It’s a very small cast, so we knew we had to be picky when making our decisions.”
The community offered a warm response to the announcement of the musical, as all four of the “Little Shop” performances sold out leading up to opening night. Each team member made significant contributions to the entertaining show, from actors giving captivating portrayals, to puppeteers seamlessly operating props of the Audrey II character while remaining physically concealed from theatergoers.
To honor the CTC’s version of “Little Shop of Horrors,” Senator Anthony Portantino attended the show on May 20 and gave the cast and crew a certificate of recognition. Following the close of these performances, Jani and Kaiser are optimistic that they and their Conundrum colleagues have passed along excitement and joy to viewers of the production.
“‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is the classic story of ‘be careful what you wish for.’ We hope our audience leaves feeling energized by the magic of live theater and has the catchy tunes stuck in their heads, but most importantly leaves with a smile on their faces,” Jani and Kaiser said in a joint statement.
You can follow the Conundrum Theatre Company @conundrumtheatreco, on Instagram or Facebook. Learn more about the company on their site, conundrumtheatreco.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org regarding questions about volunteering/auditions/shows.