'Black History Is Every Day': How the Cast of Little Shop of Horrors Are Celebrating Black History Month | Playbill

Special Features 'Black History Is Every Day': How the Cast of Little Shop of Horrors Are Celebrating Black History Month

The Off-Broadway production's current and former Black company members reflect on what February means to them.

Tatiana Montes, Zakiya Baptiste, Khadija Sankoh, Morgan Ashley Bryant, Corbin Bleu, Noel MacNeal, Melissa Victor, Tiffany Renee Thompson, Aaron Arnell Harrington, and Camryn Hampton Ambe J. Williams

The hit Off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors isn't just a testament to the composing skill of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, it's also a testament to Black music, says actor Aaron Arnell Harrington, who is currently in the show as the voice of Audrey II: "The influence on music that Black people have is timeless. The show started in the '80s and we’re still doing it now, and it’s still a hit. The kind of music that we are singing and presenting is influenced by Black music, and it never goes away."

In honor of Black History Month, Little Shop of Horrors brought together its Black actors, past and present, to pose in a series of portraits. 

See the production's current Black company members in the gallery below, including Aaron Arnell Harrington (Voice of Audrey II), Khadija Sankoh (Chiffon), Morgan Ashley Bryant (Crystal, u/s Audrey), Tiffany Renee Thompson (Ronette, u/s Voice of Audrey II, Crystal, Chiffon, Audrey II Manipulation), Camryn Hampton (O.S. Singer, Dance Captain, u/s Urchins, u/s Audrey), Zakiya Baptiste (Audrey II Manipulation, u/s Ronette, Chiffon, Crystal, Voice of Audrey II), Noel MacNeal (Vacation Cover, Audrey II Manipulation); plus Assistant Company Manager Tatiana Montes, and previous cast members Melissa Victor (u/s Urchins) and Corbin Bleu, the production's first Black Seymour. 

See the photos below and read on for reflections from these actors on how they celebrate Black History every day. They also reflected on how Black artistry, in the words of Harrington, "will always have an imprint on whatever industry that you’re in. Particularly in musical theatre. With this show, Little Shop of Horrors, it shows that it’s timeless. It’s all timeless, we will always have a stamp or an imprint.”

Photos: Little Shop of Horrors Celebrates Black History Month

In between photos, company members shared some of the ways that they're celebrating themselves and their heritage during Black History Month. 

Melissa Victor: “Someone really close to me just said that he doesn’t believe in Black History Month, because Black history is every day. Black history is American history…so I celebrate Black history every single day. I create spaces, and cultivate spaces for Black artists, Black children, Black people to thrive and learn and learn about themselves each and every day, and that’s where I really put my focus. Teaching kids that look like me to celebrate and love themselves every single day of the year.”

Camryn Hampton: “Black history is every day. I wake up and I’m Black history. Sometimes that is my motivation. I’m here, I’m beautiful, I’m Black.”

Zakiya Baptiste: “Black History Month has always been a time for celebration, but I think lately I’ve been sitting in my rest and enjoyment era of Black History Month. In the sense of finding little joys, and truly being like, 'You know what, I’m going to take my morning, I’m going to have my tea, I’m going to sit and enjoy my breakfast, and then I will start my day.' There’s not a [pressure to] get up and rush and have to complete everything. So I think my Black history is slowly turning into a restful, enjoying the fruits of my labor time.”

Corbin Bleu: "What I love about Black History Month is when you actually look around and you see it being celebrated. As a person of color myself, I don’t know how much I celebrate that month on my own, as I celebrate every day with my Blackness...But I do love that we actually do celebrate Black success.”

Morgan Ashley Bryant: “In general, making sure that I’m buying Black products, consuming Black art, making an effort to be in community with other Black people and just being a joyful Black person. Which is kind of my life in general, but extra Blackity-Black Black History Month.”

Khadija Sankoh: “I think it’s just embracing all of your qualities, and being unapologetically yourself, is really what it is. Black History Month is a month of history, but that’s also all year round, it’s not just one month, for us especially. So I feel like being ourselves entirely and just loving ourselves is very important this time of [year].”

Tiffany Renee Thompson: “I definitely like to come into spaces and make sure that I am extra unapologetically Black. I usually have a shirt on that says something, or have some statement earrings, just so people look at me. Outside of my skin color, what I’m wearing is a constant reminder that we should be celebrating Blackness and honoring Blackness, this month and all year round, but especially this month.”

Morgan Ashley Bryant, Khadija Sankoh, and Tiffany Renee Thompson Ambe J. Williams

Company members pointed out that Little Shop of Horrors has strong ties to the Black community, of course through the Black actors in the show, but also within the material itself.  

Melissa Victor: “Being in a musical theatre space, where it’s a very white space, [the music of Little Shop of Horrors is] so freeing and so fun, because my voice can just be in its natural state. No offense to [other] musical theatre sounds, but we can just be unapologetic and just let everything just come from the throat, sing how we sang growing up in the youth choir, and things like that. It’s so freeing.”

Zakiya Baptiste: “[The music of Little Shop of Horrors] does feel like home. There’s a sitting in the comfortableness of being like, ‘Wow, this feels familiar, this feels right, I’m home.’"

Khadija Sankoh: "I think representation is so important. Especially a show like Little Shop, where main principals in the cast are Black, people need to see that…you’re never too young or old to learn about representation. I feel like being in Little Shop is a service to them, it’s always a learning opportunity for someone to see that ‘I can do that. I’m 10 years old, and I love theatre, I can be on that stage.’"

Noel MacNeal: Hearing ’Somewhere That’s Green’ being sung is just beautiful by all the Audreys we’ve had. But it really resonates, that line about Audrey being able to look like Donna Reed, when Constance Wu sang it, when Joy Woods sang it, and when several of our understudies who are not white sing it, and suddenly you realize that was the accepted form of beauty back then...It’s that resonating line for an Audrey who’s not white, that makes it so meaningful and really heartfelt that she wants to not only get out, but also be accepted in society—while not realizing that you have your worth already."

EXCLUSIVE: Watch Joy Woods Deliver Emotional 'Somewhere That's Green,' Accompanied by Composer Alan Menken

Finally, company members offered some key takeaways for anyone celebrating Black History Month.  

Tiffany Renee Thompson: “I hope that in people seeing the celebration of Black History Month, and really in general, Black people, that they get more curious about the Black people in their life, and our different diasporadical cultures. Black people are everywhere, and we all have such specific niche cultures, and we do have a general disporadical Black culture that includes everyone…I hope that you get more interested in them, and their cultures, and their feelings, and them as people, and celebrate them and who they are.”

Camryn Hampton: “Remember to love yourself, remember to love your community, and share space. You have people, you always have people. You are never alone.”

Photos are by Ambe J. Williams Photography, and floral arrangements are from Black-owned florist company Brooklyn Blooms.

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