MANSFIELD — The stage of the Renaissance Theatre will be transformed into Skid Row starting this weekend with the opening of "Little Shop of Horrors."
Meek flower shop assistant Seymour pines for his beautiful but troubled coworker, Audrey. During a total eclipse, he discovers an unusual plant he names Audrey II, which feeds only on human flesh and blood.
In many ways, the Renaissance's stage adaption mirrors the 1986 film which in turn is a film adaptation of the 1982 off-Broadway musical comedy. But director Ryan Shealy has made some creative decisions that change the show for the better.
"It's such a well-known show done by pretty much every high school in America, and the movie is so ubiquitous you either do something straight traditional or something totally different," Shealy said.
"I knew I wanted to modernize it and get it out of New York; Los Angeles' skid row was the obvious choice and the 90s was an obvious choice because it was a tumultuous time there. The idea that an evil force would descend upon that specific moment and that place of such turmoil made sense for us."
Changing the time and place of "Little Shop" makes the show much more "hip hop" instead of "doo wop," said Leiah Lewis, who plays Crystal, one of three street urchins. Accompanying Lewis in the Greek chorus is Antonio Brown as Ronnette and Nykera Gardner as Chiffon.
"We are all old enough to get the aftershocks of the 90s vibes and even been part of some reverberations of the 90s culture to do less of an imitation and more like, we grew up with this and remember this," Brown said. "And the feeling of LA and the west coast, there's a cool, grungy, hard dichotomy that's also super smooth."
Lewis added that the new setting brings more soul to the show, especially with the casting of Condrea Webber as the plant, Audrey II.
"It's really cool because it's big shoes to fill; mostly men have played this role, so for (Shealy) to give me the freedom to be big and bold and boisterous has been really fun," Webber said.
"To me, it made a lot of sense to have a female plant because I think it adds to the almost love triangle between Seymour, Audrey and Audrey II," Shealy said. "Having her be a sexy woman who is tempting him with all these things adds a whole other layer to the relationship."
The way Audrey II will be presented to the audience is "not what people are used to," without giving too much away. Costume choices are creative for everyone in the cast - including Audrey, played by Emma Skaggs, who sports a bright pink wig.
"I was very overwhelmed going into this role," Skaggs said. "I wasn't too familiar with it when we started, so it's like starting from ground zero - how do I think these lines would be said, instead of, how did someone else do this?
"But it's just ridiculous in the best way," she continued. "Every character is so different and defined, and the way we all interact is crazy and fun."
"Little Shop of Horrors" will be performed at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, then again at 8 p.m. April 24 and 2:30 p.m. April 25. Doors open 30 minutes before each performance.
Due to health mandates from the state of Ohio, the Renaissance is limited to 25% capacity for in-person events - about 300 of the venue's 1,400 seats can be filled with guests.
"We aren't just doing things to make money, it really is about the artistic fulfillment and telling these stories in a unique and meaningful way that hopefully connects with our community," Shealy said. "We are creating this for us and for the community so that they can have an amazing theatrical experience right here in Mansfield."