Matt Williams is having bloody-good time playing the nebbishy Seymour in Providence Players of Fairfax’s production of Little Shop of Horrors. I fed him these questions.
Joel: Tell our readers about yourself.
Matt: I’m a native Virginian, but I grew up in a more rural setting, about 2.5 hours south and west of the Northern Virginia area. I moved here in 1998, and have been working all over the area since I got here. I consider NOVA to be home for me now.
Is this your first time working with the Providence Players? What did you sing at your audition?
It is my first time working with the group. I actually knew several people who are active with the group, and they spoke so highly of Providence Players that I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to get involved with this group. And they have lived up to all I’ve heard about them! For the audition, I actually committed an “audition no-no” and sang a snippet from “The Meek Shall Inherit” from the show. It’s a part where Seymour really gets to cut loose a bit. We were allowed to sing from the show, which is something I typically wouldn’t do.
Tell us about Seymour. Have you played this role before? If so, how is your performance different now?
I actually did play Seymour about two years ago with a slightly smaller company in the area. I had so much fun, I couldn’t pass up the chance to do it again. I definitely made changes to Seymour, especially in Act Two. I really wanted to show that although Seymour has lived his life without the ability to really choose things, he makes some very poor decisions, and does so knowing full well the implications of his choices. So, I think I’m a bit less gentle with him, especially in Act Two.
What do you love about Seymour? How do you relate to him? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Let me answer that last part first. Seymour’s strength is his basic decency. He’s very much like all of us, which is why I think people root for him. He’s certainly far from perfect, and he does some pretty horrible things. But he STRUGGLES with them, it doesn’t come easily at all. I think it’s his strength, and something I find connective about the character- who amongst us doesn’t struggle? I think his obvious weakness is the low self-esteem that comes from a lifetime of really having no options whatsoever. He’s really not sure what to do once he has options, so he allows himself to be subjugated by a stronger-willed entity.
How did you prepare for your role?
I can’t say I read anything specific. The one thing I did was spend a lot of time reflecting on the story of Dumbo. I find a lot of parallels between Seymour and Dumbo, and really wanted to contemplate that the plant is sort of like Dumbo’s “magic feather.” Only green, seven feet long, and evil. But just like Dumbo, Seymour probably could have gotten all he ever really wanted without any help at all.
What is your favorite scene and song that you perform?
There are so many moments I love in this show. As far as scenes go, I really enjoy the ending of the show. I don’t want to spoil the ending for those unfamiliar with it, but its a wonderful chance to pull some raw emotion into a show that is generally more silly than serious. I also love singing “Skid Row” in Act 1. The whole cast sings it, and I think it really introduces the themes of desperation and hope that drive the entire show. Plus, it’s great fun to sing.
What do you like the most about working with the Providence Players’ team?
This entire company is pretty amazing! I have seen shows here before, and loved the sets. I never imagined the amount of manpower it took, and am also really proud that the cast played a part in helping with set construction. The director and Technical Director, Chip and Jimmy Gertzog (father and son) have been a blast. Our music director, Madalaine Vander-Linden is a joy, and we’ve worked together as performers in the past, so it’s a treat to work with her again. There are really too many individuals to name them all, but I think it’s amazing that some of our running crew has been attending rehearsals for nearly a month, just to get a feel for the show!
I am having such a blast with this show, and with this company. It’s great to see a company that can simultaneously emphasize the words “community” AND “theatre” without devaluing either word. The cast has been wonderful, and everyone has worked so hard. Our crew is amazing! They are all performers I’ve seen onstage with Providence, I’m just so awed at the level of commitment of everyone that is part of this company!
This show opened in Broadway in 1982, and the audiences still “eat it up!” Why do you think the show is still thriving after 31 years?
I think the show works for a number of reasons – firstly, it has great songs- Alan Menken’s music is wonderful, and you can hear his songs in Disney movies like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast. Secondly, I think the story at its core is about hope, which is a widely appealing theme. Of course, add to that that it’s a very clever spoof of those wonderful B-movies like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and I think the show can continue to thrive for another 31 years!
There is currently more than one production of Little Shop of Horrors running in the DC/NOVA area. What sets the Providence Players production apart from the rest?
The other production currently running conflicts with our rehearsal and performance run, so I’m not sure we’ll get a chance to see it. It’s also a bit further away from those of us in the NOVA area! In our production the set of course is very cool- the details are just wonderful. I really feel like I’m playing in a run-down flower shop. I have lots of different gardening tools to play with, and I think it’s the first time I’ve worked on a floor that had actual tiles installed on it. The other thing that I think is great about our production is the growth of Audrey II during Act Two. Because of how we’ve set the stage, you’re able to see Audrey II slowly take over the flower shop!
Little Shop of Horrors plays through October 19, 2013 at Providence Players of Fairfax at The James Lee Community Center Theater – 2855 Annandale Road, in Falls Church, VA. For tickets, call (703) 425-6782, or purchase them online.
Toby Nelson on Playing Audrey in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at Providence Players of Fairfax by Julia L. Exline.
Julia L. Exline’s review of Little Shop of Horrors.