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Girl meets boy. Boy meets plant. Plant … well, eats everyone.

 Sarah Masterson (upper right) and Andrew Faria (lower right) co-star in Little Shop of Horrors
Idaho Shakespeare Festival
Sarah Masterson (upper right) and Andrew Faria (lower right) co-star in Little Shop of Horrors

What’s the most unique take on the Faustian legend? How about an all-singing, all-dancing musical featuring a man-eating plant?

When the soon-to-be-legendary team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (they would go on to pen Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and other Oscar winners), chose a little-known 1960 black-and-white film as the basis of a musical, they would set a new standard for tongue-in-cheek theater.

“I think its genius that it's so campy, but also the weight of the world is on your shoulders at the same time,” said Sarah Masterson, co-star in the Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s production of Little Shop of Horrors.” The stakes have never been higher, but that's the whole point.”

Just before the opening night of the production, which runs at the ISF amphitheater through August 27, Masterson joined co-star Andrew Faria to visit with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the funniest, foxiest, zaniest musicals in recent memory.

“There’s this huge comic range and a big emotional range.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. Girl meets boy. Boy meets plant. Plant eats… well just about anything with a pulse. There's a no-goodnick dentist and a solar eclipse and a Greek chorus unlike any other. Yes, it's Little Shop of Horrors, the very definition of musical comedy. And it is the latest production under the stars at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. Sarah Masterson is here. She is Audrey and Andrew Faria is Seymour, and they are the stars of Little Shop. Good morning to you both.

SARAH MASTERSON: Good morning.

ANDREW FARIA: Good morning.

PRENTICE: Andrew, this is your debut with Idaho Shakespeare. Welcome. I hope you've heard about Idaho Shakespeare audiences.

FARIA: I did. I don't know if I've heard too much, but I have seen it. I went to see “RJ,” - Romeo and Juliet - on Sunday, and that was a real fun experience. The audience was quite into it. It was it was a great time. I was… I was eating it up.

PRENTICE: Sarah Masterson is back. This is her second season. Do I have that right? Second season? Sarah, talk to me about Audrey.

MASTERSON: Well, first of all, she's such a joy to play. It's sort of a rare experience with the era that this show was written in. To have a woman who is as dynamic as she is. Just it's a role written with so much range. There are moments of real depth and honesty and sort of stillness. And then there she lives in the same campy space that the rest of the folks do in the show. And so there's this huge comic range and a big emotional range, and she's just sort of this really sweet tether throughout the play. There are these really lovely anchor points where she's very caring and caretaking of everyone else around her, and it's this really nice little piece to plot just throughout up until her last moments on stage, sort of constantly thinking of other people and looking to care for them as much as possible. So it's a real it's a real pleasure to play and, you know, get to be goofy, too. So it's a win.

PRENTICE: Where do you find that voice, by the way?

MASTERSON: The Audrey voice? I've been watching a lot of New York-based 90’s sitcoms.

PRENTICE: OK, sure. Andrew, as you know, Little Shop was one of the first successful shows penned by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken - musical comedy royalty. [They wrote] Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Little Mermaid. And these songs in Little Shop…

FARIA: It's a bomb. The show is a bomb.

PRENTICE: And Sarah, for you there are these wonderful songs, like, “Somewhere That’s Green.”

MASTERSON: Oh, yeah. It's something that I have grown up with.  And also, I'm of the Alan Menken/ Disney era. I mean, those were the films that I was raised on. So, every night singing “Somewhere That’s Green” feels very much like “I have this.” It's “Part of Your World.” They're very similar, like companion songs…every night on stage, I'm, I'm in the scene with them. There's a little part of my brain that thinks “I'm Ariel.” It's very fun.

PRENTICE: Andrew Let's talk about comedy. Can I assume that you've got to take it, quite frankly, very seriously?

FARIA: That's the only way you can take it, because then it's just you're trying to be funny. And if you're just truthful in what you're doing and your story, then everything's really natural and you know you can bang the drums to make the bottom. But that doesn't make it funny. You know, you got to you've got to have some truth in what you're saying and feeling, and then that's where it comes from.

PRENTICE: Andrew How do you find chemistry with a costar?

FARIA: You know, I think our chemistry is great, man. It's going great for us. I just feel like I am Seymour and here is Audrey. And why? Why? Why does Seymour love Audrey? And you go through your list. I have, like, a whole notebook of boom, boom, boom, boom, boom…all my stuff of why I have these feelings and why these emotions and what drives me for most of the show. And the truth is, honestly, Audrey does drive Seymour for 99% of the show. In my opinion. You kind of just use that and you find things throughout the show like and it's just, yeah, take a little bit of your own life. It's a little bit of how you feel in your in your own personal relationships and mix it in with Seymour. And it's like making one giant… one giant juice and you just got to drink the Kool-Aid.

MASTERSON: I think for me, it's it certainly helps when you have a good working relationship with the human that you're working opposite. And Andy's such a love to be around. Oh, you know, it's fun. It helps when it's really fun to play with the other person. For me, it's also a matter of like, I try not to. I've, I've found for myself that if I prep too much before I do a scene, I get to in my head and it's not organic. So I try to just, you know, as I'm working through these scenes, try to find little moments that remind me of, oh, what is it to to fall in love with somebody? Or What is it when you have a crush on someone and you work with them? And what is your your body do in relation to them in space when you're when you're standing next to them somewhere or whatever it is. And so I try to layer in those little touches or even just think about them before I head on stage. But mostly it's just responding to whatever your playmate is doing in space on the day, which in this show is just it's a lot of playing; that's a lot of fun.

PRENTICE: Say, guys, what have you been told about dealing with the heat?

MASTERSON: Well, I have a summer under my belt already with this this space and this heat, though our summer was not quite this hot, but we are blessed with the costume designer who has kept the heat in mind while building the costume. So the fabrics are quite breathable, which I'm quite grateful for, though we have been told to request ice packs if if we need them. And there's just I feel like every single person I pass in the hallway for the last week has said, Make sure you're hydrating now, hydrate now.

FARIA: I'm from the East Coast, I'm from Rhode Island. So I mean, it's warm, but it's not like hundreds out. And, you know, every time we finish a run, I feel like I have sweated out my breakfast. I mean, I'm drinking a lot of water every time. I don't get that much off stage time. So it's going to be a lot of like quick water hand offs. I'm going to I've been considering taping ice packs to my body. I'm like, I don't everyone's like, drink water, fruits and veggies, hydrate ice packs. And I'm a little bit terrified, to be honest. But it's going to happen. We're going to do it.

PRENTICE: You know, there's tech rehearsal. But then I'm thinking, gosh, tech rehearsal for this show must be really something.

MASTERSON: Yeah, we what's been great about this process is because so much of the technical elements are revolve around these plants. Yeah. And, and what's great is we've been because they're mobile, we've been able to have them in the space pretty much from the middle of the first week. So we've been getting a lot of practice with those big technical elements already.

PRENTICE: If you guys thought about, okay, we'll get serious for a moment what the themes are here in this story. I mean, obviously there's the theme of what is a relationship, but then there's this this Faustian myth that that runs right through it. And about dreams coming true….but at what cost?

FARIA: Yeah, I mean, Vicki and I have we have that talk every hour….our director Victoria Bussert. We have that talk. And every time we run past parts of the show, obviously you've seen it before, but you'll see it. You'll see it when you see the show. A big number towards the end of the show is emotionally draining because it's exactly that as that feels like at what cost and it's and we find out the cost soon after and it's a lot it is a lot. I'll tell you that. It ain't no cup of tea. But it is a fun show, you know what I mean? It's absolutely fun.

MASTERSON: I think it's genius that they like it's so campy but also like the weight of the world kind of on your shoulders at the same time. The stakes have never been higher, but that's the whole point. Yeah, it's a really kind of lovely way to tackle the question of why we make choices and how those choices impact us in those around us. And and they pose those questions in a very, very real way. But they it's pitched. So farcically that we're able to sort of take a step back and enjoy it. But there are real moments of poignancy throughout the shows. I think it's just in one aspect. It's this little delightful bonbon of a show. But it does. But it does. It does really have something honest to say, which is which I think is kind of goes back to the conversation about comedy. And it just the fact that it does live in that real place is what allows it to be as funny as it is.

PRENTICE: It is a modern classic. And your particular roles…both of your roles… are on a short list….I'm going to guess if you are in the business that you're in, this is pretty close to the top of that list.

FARIA: It's a real, real joy to get to inhabit these characters. They do live in a sort of a separate class of just recognition of time-tested characters in our field. So yeah, it's a real it's a real joy. And to get to do them with the director who's so receptive to collaboration and ideas and really wants it to be. As fresh as possible and still honored. Time honored traditions and honored. The text is just it's such a such a joy.

MASTERSON: I'm just not I'm just agreeing with you here. I'm just like I mean, this is this is a dream role. I've been thinking about this for a while. I've wanted this for a while. I hope to keep doing it. I want to do it again.

PRENTICE: I think about the young men and women who are going to see you …because there's going to be plenty of them…. Because this is one of those shows where a kid sees this and says, “I want to do that. I want to go there.”

MASTERSON: Oh, completely. You know, this show was one of the first handful of musicals that I saw when I was a kid who was with the summer stock company that I worked with back home. And I was maybe seven and saw it and just thought it was incredible. I remember so, so many details from that production and just thinking it was like this wild thing. It is larger than life and sort of fanciful in a delightfully dark way. It's very fun.

PRENTICE: Well, the sun goes down and the lights come up on Little Shop of Horrors at the amphitheater of Idaho Shakespeare Festival. Andrew, Sarah, great good luck. And….beware of the plant.

FARIA: Don't feed the plant. Don't feed the plant.

PRENTICE: Do not feed the plant. Have a good morning.

FARIA: You too.

MASTERSON: Thank you.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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