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Meet Nicholas Perez-Hoop of the Straz Center’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors’

Bill DeYoung

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"Little Shop of Horrors," from left: Nicholas Perez-Hoop, Marta Myada, Javisha Strong and Taty Arroyo. Photo by Steven Le.

Seymour Krelborn, the nebbishy plant-tender in Little Shop of Horrors, wasn’t exactly a bucket-list role for bay area actor Nicholas Perez-Hoop – he’s far too young to think about final curtains.

Yet the early ‘80s musical, which started way, way Off-Broadway before charming the world with a Broadway run and a hit movie, has always meant a lot to him.

“You know,” Perez-Hoop says, “Stephen Sondheim is like the Shakespeare of musical theater. But I would argue that this is also sacred text. It’s sacred musical theater text.

“I’m convinced that Little Shop of Horrors will live on hundreds of years into the future. Because that’s how timeless it is. That’s how easy it is to connect to it.”

The story is loosely based on a 1960s horror movie about a talking plant that feeds on human blood.

Emphasis on the word loosely. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who later collaborated on The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast for Disney, played up the comedy, the science fiction and the love story. And wrote doo-wop, Motown and rock ‘n’ roll songs to go with it.

Now onstage at the Jaeb Theatre, in the David A. Straz Center complex, Little Shop of Horrors is the second show in recent years produced under the Straz Center banner (the first was Shout! The Mod Musical, in 2021).

It’s a creative team of A-listers: Jobsite Theater’s David M. Jenkins is directing, with Alison Burns-Jackson serving as choreographer. Jeremy Douglass is musical director, and Jo Averill-Snell designed the lights.

Perez-Hoop had the lead in last year’s dark comedy Hand to God at Jobsite, directed by Jenkins. Local audiences have seen him at American Stage (The Odd Couple), at freeFall (The Fantasticks), Tampa Rep (Stupid F-ing Bird) and virtually every other professional stage on either side of the bay.

He’s a Tampa native, and he’s a homebody. “The Nick Hoop definition of ‘making it’ is to make 100 percent of my income from acting,” he says. “A lot of people say no, making it is being on Broadway, or making it is being a movie star. And I’m like, well that’s all well and good but for practicality purposes I just want to make a living.

“And I’ve been very blessed to have a community that in a lot of ways trusts me enough to afford me to make most of my money from acting.”

Perez-Hoop has gone to work temporarily in other cities, when there are no shows for him to do here. However: “Tampa will always be my home, and my family is here, but I need money! So if you ever see me not here, that’s why.”

For the moment, his day job is at freeFall, where he’s taken over as box office manager.

Cue the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

“Hey, as far as I’m concerned that’s part of making it,” Perez-Hoop declares. “If the other thing that I have to do to get by is just sitting in a theater selling tickets, then I’m doing a lot better than my Starbucks days.”

He does have an Achilles heel, something he had to tell choreographer Burns-Jackson right out of the gate when Little Shop began rehearsals.

“I, admittedly, do not dance,” he says. “I’m not a dancer. I will dance for a specific show, but it’s not something I grew up doing and I’ll forever be playing catch up as an adult. But I’ve always wanted to do a musical like this.

“And to have a role where I don’t have to dance as much, and I can just be awkward and funny and cute … I knew I had to audition for it.

“But I’ll never be in Hamilton. That’s just not happening.”

Additional info and tickets for Little Shop of Horrors: Click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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