Lena Hall is the new leading lady of Off-Broadway’s Little Shop of Horrors at the Westside Theatre, starring as Audrey opposite Rob McClure's Seymour. The Tony winner, who grew up listening to the show’s original cast album, knows she has huge shoes—or should we say stilettos—to fill.
“I’ve got Ellen Greene so ingrained in my brain,” says Hall, referring to the musical’s original star, who put her indelible stamp on Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s unendingly sweet heroine.
So Hall, a Tony winner for her electrifying performance as Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, is focused on making her performance unique by bringing herself into the equation, which could make her signature rock vocals (Hall’s résumé includes a rip-roaring performance in Bat Out of Hell, a jukebox musical featuring the songs of Meatloaf and Jim Steinman) a true asset.
In the story about a derelict skid row flower shop and a man-eating plant from outer space, Greene adopted an endearing, child-like speaking voice that became strongly associated with the character, part of her winning sweetness in the face of the character’s horrific surroundings.
Hall wants to use her unique vocal abilities to bring out what’s bubbling inside Audrey, who’s stuck dating a demeaning and abusive dentist when we meet her in the musical’s beginning.
“She is an abused person who’s taught to be obedient, but she’s got this strength inside of her. Her voice is her inner strength. She’s the heart of the show.”
Make no mistake—Little Shop of Horrors is first and foremost terrifically funny, a love letter to the campy B horror movies of the 1950s and ‘60s, but Hall thinks it’s not just the laughs that keep audiences coming back to this musical, which has become one of the most produced titles of the canon in the years since its 1982 premiere.
“It’s about these people that have big dreams, but their options are so very limited. It’s definitely an underdog story—a survival story. It could be set in any year and it would still be relevant today. I think that’s why people still love it.”
Spoiler alert: Little Shop of Horrors is a survival story that ends with most of its characters dead, but to see how Hall and the rest of the company manage that, you’ll just have to head to the Westside Theatre.