Theatre Aspen stalwart Mark Martino returns for ‘Little Shop of Horrors’
Special to The Aspen Times
IF YOU GO …
What: ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ presented by Theatre Aspen
Where: Hurst Theatre, Rio Grande Park
When: July 11 through Aug. 17
How much: $24-$94
Tickets: Theatre Aspen box office; theatreaspen.org
Director Mark Martino calls “Little Shop of Horrors” “a near perfect musical with infectious and irresistible music.”
Martino is back for his 11th season directing with Theatre Aspen, a stretch that began with a 2008 summer production of “Little Shop.” He’s at the helm again for this summer’s run, which begins performances Thursday ahead of Friday’s official opening at the Hurst Theatre in Rio Grande Park.
“‘Little Shop’ is a hilarious and touching book and a fantastic, silly story that is an homage to the horror flicks of the early ’60s and a man-eating plant. What’s not to love?” Martino said.
He’s excited to be back in the tent, where he has directed memorable shows including last summer’s “Ragtime” and titles like “Hairspray,” “Avenue Q,” “Les Miserables,” “The Full Monty,” “Peter and the Starcatcher” and “Cabaret,” which in 2016 won five Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards, including Best Choreography and Best Production of a Musical.
Martino, a New York-based director and choreographer, has worked at many of the nation’s leading theaters including the historic Cape Playhouse, Florida’s Maltz Jupiter Theatre, Boston’s North Shore Music Theatre and The Music Theatre of Louisville.
“Year after year I look forward to working with the dedicated, tireless, talented group of creatives, cast and crew who come together every summer to make some magic in the mountains,” Martino said. “I love getting in the room with the cast for a lot of hard work in a very short time, with more than a couple of laughs along the way.”
With a book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken, this sci-fi musical — based on the 1960 Roger Corman film — follows the story of geeky flower shop assistant Seymour who is infatuated with his co-worker Audrey. He discovers an unusual plant in the flower shop that feeds on human flesh and blood. Seymour turns into a local celebrity as the town watches the plant grow exponentially. Little does everyone know that this giant man-eating plant is demanding that Seymour feed him flesh and blood in exchange for Seymour gaining fame and romance.
Despite Martino’s numerous accomplishments in show business, he admits that he wasn’t always sure the theater was the right path for him. Martino was actually a teacher for a few years before he eventually realized that show business was his true calling — first as an actor and then as a director and choreographer.
“I think deep down there was always a pull to the creative arts as the place where I’d be able to fulfill my potential and live my best artistic life,” Martino said.
Martino has been a working artist in show business for over 40 years. Once he left teaching and took the plunge to move to New York in 1979, he never had another “real job” again.
“I have been lucky enough to always make my living doing what I love most,” he explained. “This career has allowed me to work all over the world and to be in a profession that is all about collaboration, trust, respect and love.”
Although his annual time in Aspen is short-lived — just a couple weeks, for instance, setting “Little Shop” — Martino makes the most of it.
“My stay in Aspen is brief, so there’s only time to get the show up and on its feet before I have to leave again,” Martino said. “I always love the walk to the Hurst Theatre tent. It is serene and stunning.”
Martino notes that he saw hundreds of actors in New York, Denver, Aspen and around the country to find a cast of nine led by Jordan Grubb as Seymor and Julie Kavanagh as Audrey.
“All nine are triple threats who sing, dance and create funny, endearing and very human characters,” Martino said.
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High Country Sinfonia is staging three in-person performances in the Roaring Fork Valley this week.