Staff Photos: Karen Rohr. Lisa Whitmire as Audrey, left, and Adam Sechelski as Seymour strike a pose next to the man-eating plant, operated by performer Kenneth Perry Jr., at a "Little Shop of Horrors" rehearsal. Performed by the New Depot Players, the show opens Thursday, Aug. 4.
Looking for a little camp this summer? No, not the kind you send your child to in the summer time. We're talking the kind found in an over-the-top musical about a man-eating plant.
Next weekend, the New Depot Players will mount "Little Shop of Horrors," the story of a plant which thrives on human blood and a man that can't keep himself from feeding it
Presented at the Center Street Arts black box theater at 910 Center St. in Olde Town Conyers, "Little Shop" showtimes are at 8 p.m. Aug. 4 to 6, 11 to 13, 18 to 20, and 3 p.m. on Aug. 7 and 14. Tickets range from $16 to $25.
"Little Shop" director Kelley Whitmire said he first saw the musical as a teenager with his parents and then became a big fan of the movie version released in 1986.
"I chose 'Little Shop' because it's one of my favorite shows from way back," Whitmire said. "It's a great mix of dark subject matter and comedy, and '60s Motown pop rock that I've always really, really loved, and the characters are great."
The story centers on flower shop assistant Seymour Krelborn who purchases an unusual plant, that looks like a Venus fly trap, for the store. The plant begins to die because Seymour can't figure out what to feed it, until one day he pricks his finger on a thorn and a drop of blood falls into the plant.
The plant comes back to life and Seymour realizes blood is what fuels the plant's growth. Finger-prick by finger-prick, he provides his own blood to nourish the plant.
Meanwhile, the plant becomes an attraction at the flower shop and is profitable for both the store owner and Seymour. Eventually, the plant speaks to Seymour and tells him that if he continues to feed it, it will make his dreams come true. Since Seymour desperately wants fame and fortune in order to attract his love interest, Audrey, he agrees.
From there, with no blood of his own left to give, Seymour turns to other sources.
"It's basically a man who makes a deal with the devil, the devil being the plant, to provide it with food, which happens to be people," Whitmire said. "It starts out innocently enough and becomes more and more dark as he keeps providing it with food."
A Conyers resident and a 1990 Heritage High School graduate, Whitmire said he's happy to be back working with the New Depot Players. Whitmire performed with a different incarnation of the theater group, the Depot Players, as a teenager.
He went on to earn a musical theater performance degree from Webster University, spent some time performing in touring musicals and then moved back to Conyers in 2001.
Whitmire changed careers and is now a project manager for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. The last time he worked with the New Depot Players was in the early 2000s, when he and his wife performed in the New Depot Players' "The Robber Bridegroom," shortly before they became parents to Tyler, now 7, and Avery, 5.
During his hiatus from the theater, Whitmire put his efforts into screen writing and directing and recently made the top 12 (of 72 entries) in "The 48 Hour Film Project: Atlanta," for which he wrote, directed, edited and produced a short film within two days.
"The biggest difference between stage and film is the live audience. I love film- making, but there is just something about the energy of a live performance that is so exciting. Anything can happen," Whitmire said.
"When a joke works and you get the laugh you were looking for, or in a dramatic moment you can hear the crowd holding their breath -- that immediate feedback is incredibly powerful."
Whitmire's wife, Lisa Whitmire, a professional actress, is playing the part of Audrey in "Little Shop," and Adam Sechelski, a regional performer, is in the role of Seymour. Assisting Whitmire is New Depot Players President Jay Tryall, who is the choreographer, stage manager and costume designer; music educator and accompanist Mary Lynn Luke, who serves as musical director; and local artist Anne Wildman, who is building four versions of the man-eating plant.
Whitmire said while he'll emphasize the darkness in "Little Shop," he'll also play up the camp and humor for lots of laughs.
"I really look forward to putting up the big, huge man-eating plant. I love a puppet that can eat people," he said.