Emily Schaab is decidedly not a plant person.
“Unfortunately, the only thing I do with plants is kill them,” she admitted, proving she was definitely not typecast in her starring role as Audrey, who works at a flower shop, in “Little Shop of Horrors” at Footlite Musicals.
“Little Shop of Horrors,” a 1982 off-off-Broadway musical opening Friday at Footlite, centers on meek flower shop assistant Seymour (played by Phil Criswell) and his perky but troubled co-worker, Audrey.
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During a solar eclipse, Seymour discovers an unusual Venus Flytrap-type plant in the wholesale flower district of Skid Row, takes it home and names it Audrey II in honor of his unrequited love for co-worker Audrey. The plant fails to thrive until blood from a cut on Seymour’s finger revives it. Audrey II becomes key to the flower shop’s newfound success, but the plant’s increasing need for blood eventually gets out of hand.
Schaab, a 2008 graduate of New Palestine High School, is a veteran of both high school and community theater. She was an active member of her high school drama department, participating in musicals and a play during her four years there.
Since graduating from IUPUI with a degree in criminal justice, Schaab has become immersed in the Indianapolis theater scene and — as of late — a regular on the Footlite stage. Most recently, she sang and danced in the ensemble of “Addams Family” and later starred as Kate Monster in “Avenue Q.” Following “Little Shop,” she’ll head right into the theater’s production of “Anything Goes” as Bonnie.
Schaab has long been familiar with “Little Shop of Horrors,” and the vocal score for Audrey — who has both quaint ballads and belting showstoppers — was a big draw in deciding to audition for the role.
In Audrey’s solo, “Somewhere That’s Green,” she dreams of a future life with Seymour away from her abusive boyfriend, dentist Orin Scrivello (played by John Kern), but she really gets to let loose with “Suddenly Seymour,” a no-holds-barred duet recognizing the mutual attraction between the characters of Audrey and Seymour.
Schaab credits the on-stage chemistry between her and Criswell, who was also her co-star in “Avenue Q,” as one reason she landed the role.
“Little Shop of Horrors” director Maria Matters agreed — Shaab and Criswell play off one another well.
“Their rapport definitely came through during the audition,” she said. “It was a contributing factor, if not the deciding factor.”
Matters, who directs a show at Footlite every other year, selected “Little Shop of Horrors” on the advice of cast members from a previous show. She had expected the show to be a light and fluffy piece and was surprised when the subtext of the narrative — the danger of greed, among other problems for the small cast of characters trying to survive a rough life on Skid Row — became clear.
“I’m usually drawn to shows with darker themes,” Matters said, “and this show has a very dark and very relevant message.”
As Matters is drawn to somber themes, Schaab is drawn to characters who are more than what they seem. At first glance, she explains, Audrey comes off as one-dimensional ditzy character. But Schaab sees her differently.
“There is an eagerness in her to see the good in everything, and it leads her to be taken advantage of,” she said.
But as the show advances, Seymour helps her to see her own self-worth, Schaab said.
Schaab is happy that her theater career has extended past high school and into her adult life.
“Theater is just the thing in my life that I feel the most like myself,” Schaab said. “I love my job, and I love my friends and family, but I just can’t capture the feeling of performing anywhere else.”
“Theater is just the thing in my life that I feel the most like myself when I’m doing it,” Schaab said. “…I just can’t capture the feeling of performing anywhere else.”
What: “Little Shop of Horrors”
Where: Footlite Musicals, 1847 N. Alabama, Indianapolis
When: Jan. 13 – 29; Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30; Sunday matinees are at 2:30
For more information and to order tickets: footlitemusicals.wildapricot.org