Matt Seckman can cross one role off his theatrical bucket list: Seymour Krelbon, the lead character in Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's hit musical, Little Shop of Horrors.
"The music is amazing, and I just liked so many aspects of it that I put it on my short list of roles I would love to try out," says Seckman, who discovered the musical in high school, listening to the soundtrack countless times.
When it came time to audition earlier this year, Seckman had two things going for him: determination and a familiarity with the people in the room.
"He went out fighting for it," says Summerfest artistic director Wesley Nelson. "He totally won the role and there was a lot of great competition. You could tell he had really thought about the character."
"I tried not to psych myself out," Seckman says of the audition process. "I told myself go in and have fun. I was auditioning with people I've worked with before and knew, so I just kind of went in and played. It always helps when that's the situation. You can be more relaxed and more yourself."
Seckman's ease with the people in the room was in large part due to a decade of experience appearing on the Summerfest stage (and formerly, Lexington Shakespeare Festival) in supporting roles.
"Matt has done a ton of stuff with us and he always does such consistent work," Nelson says. "It's nice when you go into a rehearsal and you know that the people you have in your leads are solid actors willing to take on a challenge."
It's a challenge that is right up Seckman's alley. Sweeney from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, is another dream role.
"I like the dark musicals and the dark characters who have to make very drastic and interesting choices," Seckman says. "Those are the most fun to play."
Seymour certainly qualifies as dark, albeit comically so, as he transforms from hapless plant shop worker to murderer thanks to a bloodthirsty plant, Audrey II, named after a girl he hopelessly crushes on.
"Most people, when they think about that character, they think he's just this nerdy, unimposing guy who is awkward around other people and situations," Seckman says. "But there's a lot more to him than just that.
"He's so easily manipulated by everyone around him, more so than I ever realized. He is a good guy but he's not a good guy at the same time, because he is so malleable. Before he knows it, he's doing these really dark and terrible things and starts essentially killing people and feeding them to this plant that is going to help him be a success. So while being manipulated by the plant, he also becomes a manipulator."
"There's a lot of layers there I wasn't aware of and I'm trying to play on those a little bit," Seckman says.
Penned by the same duo who later brought us the score to Disney's The Little Mermaid, Little Shop of Horrors is a dark comedy based on a low-budget, 1960 film directed by Roger Corman. Since its debut Off-Off-Broadway in 1982, Little Shop has become a gem of the musical theater world, and even made a return trip to the big screen in the 1986 movie starring Rick Moranis.
It is frequently produced by community theaters and high school drama programs, mostly due to its small cast size and minimal dance requirements.
Nelson says that patrons have been asking for a production of Little Shop of Horrors for years, but it never felt right to produce it at the Arboretum on Alumni Drive, where SummerFest was produced until this year, when it moved to the MoonDance at Midnight Pass amphitheater. Its first production there was William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, earlier this month.
"The large, multi-levels of the stage at the Arboretum would have felt unnecessary for Little Shop," Nelson says. "It would have felt too small for that stage."
MoonDance amphitheater has a smaller stage and more intimate seating, so Nelson said the scale was finally ideal for staging the show.
"One of the great things about our new venue is that we can do some things on a larger scale if we'd like to, but it felt like the right size for a show like Little Shop," says Nelson. "It was finally time to give people what they were looking for."
And it doesn't hurt that it gave a loyal company member a chance to make a theatrical dream come true.
Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer and critic.