Highly Recommended Reviewed by: Stacey L. Crawley From the moment the actors step onto stage,…
American Blues Theater extends LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS through July 31
Due to overwhelming demand, American Blues Theater has again extended Little Shop of Horrors, the comedic rock musical with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken, directed by Jonathan Berry, and music direction by Ensemble member Austin Cook. Little Shop of Horrors now runs through July 31, 2016 at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. Tickets to Little Shop of Horrors extension (July 1-31) are on sale Monday, May 31 at 10 a.m. and can be purchased by phone at 773-404-7336 or online atwww.americanbluestheater.com.
“American Blues is thrilled by the success of our Little Shop, making it the longest running production in our thirty-year history,” said Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside.
For years, Little Shop of Horrors has made audiences scream with laughter. In this gleefully gruesome musical, Seymour, a poor florist’s assistant, allows his craving for fame and fortune to seduce him into playing nursemaid to a man-eating plant. This celebrated musical, with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken, features the rock and roll, doo-wop and early Motown-inspired songs “Skid Row (Downtown),” “Somewhere That’s Green,” and “Suddenly, Seymour.”
Following the success of 2013’s Hank Williams: Lost Highway, American Blues will again utilize the phenomenal musical talent of its company, allowing them to produce a comedy with great music and a fun story. Little Shop of Horrors features American Blues Ensemble Members Michael Mahler(Seymour), Dara Cameron (Audrey) and Artistic Affiliate Ian Paul Custer (Orin),as well as Mark David Kaplan (Mr. Mushnik), Lorenzo Rush Jr.(Voice of Audrey Two), Camille Robinson (Crystal), Jasondra Johnson (Ronnette), Eunice Woods (Chiffon), Darian Tene (Street Derelict), and Yando Lopez (Street Derelict).
The live band includes music director Austin Cook (keyboard), Shaun Whitley (electric guitar), Michael Weatherspoon (drums), Malcolm Ruhl(bass), and Matthew Sitz (auxiliary percussion/puppeteer).
The creative team includes Ensemble members and Artistic Affiliates Grant Sabin (scenic), Izumi Inaba (costumes), Rick Sims (sound), Christopher J. Neville (props), and Sarah E. Ross (Audrey II), as well as Heather Gilbert (lights) and Dana Nestrick (stage manager).
About the Artists
HOWARD ASHMAN (Book & Lyrics) is best known as a pivotal creative mind behind the renaissance of Disney animation and his work on The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast (which is dedicated to, “Our friend, Howard Ashman, who gave a Mermaid her voice and a Beast his soul…”) Ashman’s first love was theater. Ashman was a founder of off-off Broadway’s renowned WPA Theater, where he conceived, wrote and directedGod Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, as well as the classic musical, Little Shop of Horrors (both music by Alan Menken). In 1986, he wrote and directed the Broadway musical Smile (music by Marvin Hamlisch). Lamented as a lost treasure of the 1980’s theater scene, Smile remains popular on high school and college campuses throughout the country. Howard Ashman died in 1991 from complications of AIDS.
ALAN MENKEN (Composer) Theater: God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Little Shop of Horrors, Real Life Funnies, Atina: Evil Queen of The Galaxy, Kicks, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Beauty and the Beast, A Christmas Carol, Weird Romance, King David, Der Gloeckner Von Notre Dame, The Little Mermaid, Sister Act, Leap of Faith, Aladdin, and Newsies. Film: Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Life With Mikey, Lincoln, Home On The Range, Noel, Enchanted, Shaggy Dog, Tangled, and Mirror Mirror. Songs: Rocky V, Home Alone 2, and Captain America. Awards: 8 Oscars (19 nominations), 11 Grammys (including Song of the Year), 7 Golden Globes, Tony Award (plus 4 nominations), Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, New York Drama Critics, Olivier, and London’s Evening Standard Award, Drama League. Honors: Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, Doctorates from New York University and University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
JONATHAN BERRY (Director) is a director and teacher in Chicago, the Artistic Producer at Steppenwolf, and an ensemble member of both Steep Theatre and Griffin Theatre. At Steep, productions include: Laura Wade’s Posh, Ross Dungan’s The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle, Nick Payne’s If There Is I Haven’t Found it Yet, John Donnelly’s The Knowledge, David Eldridge’s Festen, Deirdre Kinahan’s Moment, Howard Korder’s The Hollow Lands and Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Griffin productions include: Pocatello by Sam Hunter, Balm in Gilead by Lanford Wilson, Golden Boy by Odets, Miller/Tysen’s The Burnt Part Boys, Sheik/ Sater’s Spring Awakening, the North American premiers of Simon Stephen’s Punk Rock (Jeff Award Director, Lead Actor, and Ensemble), Port, and On the Shore of the Wide World, Stephen Sondheim’s Company, William Inge’s Picnic, JB Priestely’s Time and the Conways, Sidney Kingsley’s Dead End, Brendan Behan’s The Hostage and R.C. Sheriff’s Journey’s End. He was the Assistant Director for Anna D Shapiro’s Broadway productions of Of Mice and Men and This is Our Youth. Steppenwolf productions include the SYA production of A Separate Peace and the world premiere of Melinda Lopez’s Gary, as well as the staged reading of Suicide, Incorporate. Gift Theatre: The world premieres of both Dirty and Suicide, Incorporated by Andrew Hinderaker, and Shakespeare’s Othello. Goodman Theatre: The Solid Sand Below and The World of Extreme Happiness for their New Stages Festival. Other work includes: American Blues: Sideman; Redtwist: Look Back in Anger and Reverb, Chicago Dramatists: I Am Going to Change the World, Jackalope Theatre’s The Casuals, Strawdog’s Conversations on a Homecoming, Remy Bumppo: The Marriage of Figaro, Theatre Mir: Bond’s The Sea and Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle, Lifeline Theater: The Piano Tuner (After Dark Award – Best Production) He pursued his MFA in directing from Northwestern University. He has taught acting, directing, and Viewpoints at University of Michigan, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, Act One Studios, Columbia College, and The School at Steppenwolf.
AUSTIN COOK (Music Director; Keyboard) is an Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. He was last seen in Hank Williams: Lost Highway. Austin is an award-winning music director, musician, actor, and producer currently residing in Chicago, IL. Recent credits: 1st/4th National Tour Million Dollar Quartet (Music Director/Music Supervisor); Sondheim on Sondheim (Music Director/Pianist)* Jeff Award Winner; Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Pianist)* Jeff Award Winner; Ring of Fire (Piano, Guitar, Dobro, Bass); Hank Williams: Lost Highway (“Hoss”); Putting It Together (MD/Pianist)Jeff Award Nominee; Some Enchanted Evening (music director/pianist)Jeff Award Winner. Chicago Theater credits include: American Blues Theater, Writers Theater, Mercury Theater, Theater at the Center, Porchlight Theatre, Second City. Music Producer credits: Billy Woodward, John Michael Presney, Yuleberry’s and Friends. Austin’s most recently produced album “The Beast in Me” won the Independent Music Award for Best Roots EP and is featured on PBS nationally in Sun Studio Sessions.
DARA CAMERON (Audrey) is an Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. She appeared in three productions of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! with American Blues and looks forward to returning to WABT studio this holiday season. Other recent credits include: Elf, Sister Act, October Sky, Hero (Jeff nomination), Fiddler on the Roof, City of Angels, Little Women, South Pacific, The Wizard of Oz, and Cinderella: After the Ball (Marriott Theatre); Sunset Boulevard, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and The Buddy Holly Story (Drury Lane Theatre); Hero (Asolo Rep); They’re Playing Our Song (Fox Valley Rep); Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Hello, Dolly! (Theatre at the Center); The Addams Family (Mercury Theater); and Old Jews Telling Jokes (Royal George Theatre and Westside Theatre-NYC). Dara is a Northwestern University graduate and member of Actors’ Equity.
IAN PAUL CUSTER (Orin) is an Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. He was last seen at American Blues in Yankee Tavern and It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! Recent Chicago theatrical credits include Bad Jews (Theatre Wit, North Shore Center, Royal George); 33 Variations (TimeLine Theatre, Jeff Award – Best Production, Midsize); Annie Bosh is Missing (Steppenwolf Theatre); High Holidays (Goodman Theatre); To Master the Art(Broadway Playhouse/TimeLine Theatre); Strangers, Babies (Steep Theatre); and Fiddler on the Roof (Paramount Theatre). Ian has also had the pleasure of working with A Red Orchid Theatre, MPAACT, Route 66 Theatre, The Inconvenience, and Fox Valley Repertory. Regional theatrical credits:Hero: The Musical (Asolo Rep Theatre), Cymbeline (Notre Dame Shakespeare), Romeo and Juliet (Cardinal Stage), and Peter Pan (360 Entertainment – London, England). Television credits: Empire, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD.
JASONDRA JOHNSON (Ronnette) makes her debut at American Blues Theater. Her previous theatre credits include Hairspray (Timberlake Playhouse), Dessa Rose (Bailiwick Chicago), The Color Purple (Mercury Theater), Crowns (Goodman Theatre), and Will You Stand Up? (Erasing the Distance). “I’m living a dream and I’m so happy to do what I do. Many thanks to my mommy, daddy, and Fraz!” M.Ed. Community Counseling Loyola University Chicago; B.A. Psychology Saint Xavier University.
MARK DAVID KAPLAN (Mr. Mushnik) makes his American Blues Theater debut. Credits include – Les Miserables (Thenardier – Jeff Award), Ragtime(Tateh – Jeff Award), and Curtains (Drury Lane Oakbrook); Man of La Mancha (Sancho – Montana Shakes/Park); Fiddler on the Roof (Lazar Wolf – Pioneer Theatre); Animal Crackers, Into the Woods, and The Cocoanuts (Skylight); The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (James Lapine-dir., Water Tower); The Emperor’s New Clothes, Willy Wonka, and the premiere of How Can You Run with a Shell on Your Back? (Chicago Shakespeare). Shorter titles include Amadeus (Indiana Rep), We Three Lizas (About Face Theatre), and A Year with Frog and Toad (Chicago Children’s Theatre). Long associated with the hit Forbidden Broadway, Mark has performed from NYC to Singapore, earning a Jeff Award for his work in Forbidden Broadway Dances with the Stars at the Royal George Theatre. He spent five years touring the US as “Zazu” in The Lion King.
YANDO LOPEZ (Street Derelict) makes his American Blues Theater debut with Little Shop. Yando was last seen in the title role of Barney the Elf with the Other Theatre Company and as “Jeff” in [title of show] with Brown Paper Box. Other Chicago credits include Jeff award-winning Sondheim on Sondheim at Porchlight Music Theatre and In the Heights at the Paramount Theatre. He has also worked with Court Theatre, Chicago Children’s Theatre, and FWD Theatre. Next up Yando will be performing with The Hypocrites in their Gilbert and Sullivan rep shows at the Olney Theatre. Yando is a Northwestern graduate.
MICHAEL MAHLER (Seymour) is an Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. He has appeared as “Clifford” in Side Man, “Jimmy” in Hank Williams: Lost Highway, and the “Announcer/Pianist” in It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! Chicagoland credits include City of Angels, The 25th Annual…Spelling Bee, and Shenandoah (Marriott); The March (Steppenwolf); Working (Broadway Playhouse); The Fox on the Fairway, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Jeff nomination), and The Producers (Theatre at the Center); They’re Playing Our Song and A Funny Thing Happened… (Fox Valley Rep); and The Illusion (Court). Michael is a Jeff award-winning composer/lyricist and husband to Dara Cameron.
CAMILLE ROBINSON (Crystal) is an Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. She returns after making her Blues debut in It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! last winter. Recent theater credits include: For Her as a Piano (Pegasus Theatre Chicago), Stick Fly (Windy City Playhouse), Murder Ballad(Bailiwick Chicago), and More Than A Miracle: A Nativity Story (Congo Square Theatre).
LORENZO RUSH JR. (Voice of Audrey Two) makes American Blues Theater debut. Lorenzo is a Joseph Jefferson Award nominated actor with a degree from Western IL University in Musical Theater. Lorenzo has been honored to grace the stage of some of Chicago’s best theaters such as: Porchlight Music Theater (Ain’t Misbehavin’, Funny Thing…Forum), Marriott Theatre (City of Angels, Dreamgirls), and Boho Music Theater (Parade), as well as accredited regional theaters across the country. Lorenzo has been fortunate to sing alongside award winning artist such as Jeri Sager, Sutton Foster, and Brian Stokes Mitchell. Lorenzo is a member of AEA.
DARIAN TENE (Street Derelict; Choreographer) makes her American Blues Theater debut. Darian recently graduated from the University of Alabama where she appeared in Chicago and Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Theater Tuscaloosa). Other recent credits include A Charlie Brown Christmas (Emerald City Theater).
EUNICE WOODS (Chiffon) makes her American Blues Theater debut. Other Chicago credits include The Project(s) (American Theater Company),Sparky! (Lifeline Theatre), The Revel (The House Theatre of Chicago), Dessa Rose (Bailiwick Chicago), Hey! Dancin’! Hey! Musical (The Factory Theater), The True History…of Julia Pastrana (Tympanic Theatre Company), Raskol (Vintage Theater Collective), and The Rose Parade (Body Project Ensemble & VOTC). Eunice is a proud company member of Barrel of Monkeys where she performs and teaches in Chicago Public Schools. She holds a BFA in Theatre Arts from Boston University and is represented by Gray Talent Group.
Fact Sheet Little Shop of Horrors
Title: Little Shop of Horrors
Book and Lyrics by: Howard Ashman
Music by: Alan Menken
Directed by: Jonathan Berry
Music Direction by: American Blues Ensemble Member Austin Cook
Featuring: American Blues Ensemble members Michael Mahler (Seymour), Dara Cameron (Audrey), Artistic Affiliate Ian Paul Custer (Orin), as well as Mark David Kaplan (Mr. Mushnik), Lorenzo Rush Jr. (Voice of Audrey Two), Camille Robinson (Crystal), Jasondra Johnson (Ronnette), Eunice Woods (Chiffon), Darian Tene(Street Derelict), and Yando Lopez (Street Derelict)
Dates: Previews: April 29 & 30 at 7:30 pm, May 1 at 2:30 p.m. and May 4, & 5 at 7:30 p.m.
Press Performance: Friday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m.
Regular Run: April 29 – May 29, 2016
Extension: June 2 – 26, 2016
2nd Extension: July 1 – 31, 2016
Schedule: Thursday: 7:30 p.m.
Friday: 7:30 p.m.
Saturday: 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday: 2:30 p.m.
Location: Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago
Ticket prices: $19 – $49
Box Office: Buy online at AmericanBluesTheater.com or by calling 773.404.7336.
Other: Free post-show events will follow select Sunday matinees.
About American Blues Theater
American Blues Theater is the premier American theater producing visceral theatrical works while engaging its audience in missions of local service agencies. American Blues Theater illuminates the American ideas of freedom, equality, and opportunity in the plays produced and communities served.
The multi-generational and interdisciplined artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago. The 34-member Ensemble have over 500 combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2016, the theater and artists received 172 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and over 28 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.
The American Blues Theater Ensemble includes all four Founders Ed Blatchford, Rick Cleveland, James Leaming, and William Payne with Dawn Bach, Matthew Brumlow, Manny Buckley, Kate Buddeke, Sarah Burnham, Dara Cameron, Casey Campbell, Brian Claggett, Dennis Cockrum, Austin Cook, Laura Coover, Lauri Dahl, Joe Foust, Cheryl Graeff, Marty Higginbotham, Jaclyn Holsey, Lindsay Jones, Nambi E. Kelley, Kevin R. Kelly, Steve Key, Ed Kross, Warren Levon, Michael Mahler, Heather Meyers, John Mohrlein, Suzanne Petri, Carmen Roman, Editha Rosario, Sarah E. Ross and Gwendolyn Whiteside.