With the opening of Providence Players’ fall season this week, veteran director Chip Gertzog will be crossing a long-held goal off of his bucket list: to direct “Little Shop of Horrors.”
He’s had his sights on directing the musical since his son Jimmy performed in it as a student at Woodson High School back in 2002. The elder Gertzog then saw the Broadway revival, and has been saying for a long time that if he ever did direct a musical, “Little Shop” would be it.
For him directing plays is fun, but directing a comedic musical – one full of the kind of rock and doo-wop that he grew up with – has been a special delight.
The campy send-up of 1950s horror flicks centers on Seymour, a skid row florist pining for the spoken-for Audrey who comes into possession of a Venus flytrap-like plant. His Audrey II, as he names the plant, turns out to be anything but ordinary, as it makes its penchant for blood, sass, and R&B singing known.
Musicals aren’t easy to stage, especially for a community theater group. Regular patrons of the long-serving community theater group’s performances expressed an interest in seeing the group put one on, Gertzog said, but they cost significantly more to stage than a standard play. But, he explained, the Providence Players like to open their seasons with big crowd-pleasers, and he had the time and desire to bring the musical to the James Lee Community Center stage. While he’s directed about 10 plays for Providence Players, “Little Shop” will be his first musical. And it’s only the second time since the Providence Players have been at James Lee that they’ll be putting on a musical; the first was in 2006 with Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.”
As with many Gertzog-directed productions, he’ll have the support of his family. Son Jimmy is the technical director and primary lighting director for the production and, as he was back at Woodson High, will be a puppeteer for Audrey II. The man-eating plant, represented by four different puppets of growing size, will be manned by more than one puppeteer due to the great physical demands of the task.
For his part, the show places new demands upon the elder Gertzog. In addition to the responsibilities of directing a standard play – managing actors and their performances, making sure the story is told, designing the play’s visual presentation – he’s had the added task of ensuring that the choreography, singing, and live music are refined before the curtains rise. But in directing his bucket list production, the great demands come with great rewards.
“I’ve completely, thoroughly enjoyed it – the cast, the crew, the musical aspects of the show. It’s been wonderful, and I really think the audience is in for a treat. It’s just a fun play to see.”
“Little Shop of Horrors” runs Oct. 4 – 19. Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, with matinees at 2 p.m. on Oct. 6, 12, and 13. The play will be performed at The James Lee Community Center Theater, 2855 Annandale Road, Falls Church. Tickets are $23 for general admission and $20 for students and seniors. For more information, visit providenceplayers.org.