Asked to think of the most memorable leading men of the 1980s, names like Tom Cruise and Patrick Swayze probably come to mind. But Rick Moranis? Ask actor Nathan Bowen and Moranis deserves a spot on that list.
“Rick Moranis is an iconic actor of that time period,” Bowen said.
Starting Friday, Bowen will star as Seymour in the 2nd Star Production version of “Little Shop of Horrors,” a role Moranis played in the 1986 film adaptation of the musical.
“I grew up watching the movie and always loved it,” Bowen said. “I always wanted to be in the show and be that role ...”
Seymour is a dweeby florist in New York with a crush on his co-worker, the beautiful and blonde Audrey (Hannah Thornhill).
“He’s kind of the meek little guy who’s always wanted the girl who works at the flower shop,” Bowen said. “The underdog aspect appeals to me.”
Like Moranis, Bowen, a budget analyst by trade, said he considers himself a “nerdy guy.”
“Rick Moranis is another short statured, nerdy guy,” Bowen said. “Being short ... limits you in some roles but in this role it probably helps.”
“Little Shop” takes a turn for the horrifying when Seymour discovers a plant that craves flesh and blood, making the floral shop a major attraction.
“It’s a funny show, it’s a quirky show,” said the show’s director Jane Wingard. “We do so many traditional shows, we could stand to do quirky.”
According to Wingard, 2nd Star musicals are typically full-scale Rodgers and Hammerstein shows. But due to a recent shift in programming, this fall seemed like the perfect time to stage the off-beat musical.
“2nd Star has wanted to do this show for a long time, but we’ve always had a September show and a November show and neither of those are appropriate times for ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’” Wingard said. “It’s not the way to kick off the Christmas season.”
But it’s the perfect way to kick of the Halloween season. So with an October slot this year, Wingard and the 2nd Star board settled on “Little Shop.”
Wingard, who does much of the set design and construction herself, said 2nd Star prides itself on its professional-looking sets. In fact, the company was awarded a 2013 WATCH Award for Outstanding Achievement in Set Painting in a Play.
“We give [the productions] the most professional set we can within the realm of the Bowie Playhouse,” Wingard said. “It has qualities of a Broadway production just scaled down ...”
But despite its accolades, when it came to the “Little Shop of Horrors” main attraction, Audrey II, the carnivorous plant, 2nd Star left it to the experts.
“We contemplated building the puppet but our studio is an un-air-conditioned warehouse,” Wingard said. “We decided that renting the puppet would be a more prudent way to go.”
2nd Star is renting Audrey II from Intermission Productions in California.
When it came to her human characters, Wingard said she encouraged the cast to put their own twist or spin on their roles.
“We don’t try to copy ...” Wingard said. “Most people will not look at the original production until afterward.”
“When I was learning how to act, I was always told not to duplicate,” added Thornhill. “Theater is live ... it’s not going to be the same every night.”
A Bowie resident, Thornhill has appeared in 50 different productions in the Washington, D.C., area since 1997.
Despite Wingard’s urging to make the character his own, Bowen said he can’t help but channel some Moranis into his portrayal of Bowen.
“I definitely hear him saying the lines when I’m saying them,” Bowen said. “He’s the basis for the character work I’ve done.”