There’s a new florist over at Mushnik’s flower shop. TV and stage star Conrad Ricamora has recently begun wielding the shears of lovable and nerdy leading man Seymour Krelborn in Tony Award winner Michael Mayer’s hit revival of Little Shop of Horrors at Off-Broadway’s Westside Theatre. Entertainment journalist Frank DiLella recently caught up with Ricamora to talk about his return to the theatre and more.
When were you first introduced to Little Shop?
My brother and I — we grew up in the ’80s, so we were huge fans of the Rick Moranis–Steve Martin film. When I got the role, he texted me immediately saying, “I remember singing along to ‘Suddenly Seymour’ with you.”
Let’s talk about the evolution of your character, Seymour Krelborn. In the original Off-Broadway production and Rick Moranis on screen, we see this character as a real nerd. But of late, especially in this revival, Seymour has morphed into a Broadway matinee idol of sorts. Do you agree?
Some people have said that to me, and I’m not sure if I see myself in that kind of way. I did play Oliver for six years on How to Get Away With Murder, and he was the “It” lovable, nerdy guy. It’s hard as an actor to get invested in any outside view of yourself because you want to stay inside your own body and not worry about how people are seeing you. But I love playing Seymour; he’s just got a heart of gold and he’s trying to get himself out of a really tough life he’s been born into.
There is nothing like an Alan Menken/Howard Ashman score. This show is full of iconic tunes. What is your favorite song to perform, and why?
I love “Suddenly Seymour.” It’s such a risk for both Audrey and Seymour to put their hearts on the line. They have been burned so much in their lives, and yet they overcome their pasts in this song in order to love each other.
What I love about this revival of Little Shop of Horrors is your director, Michael Mayer is really bringing the show back to its roots — pun intended. What is it like to perform this musical in such an intimate setting?
It’s my favorite kind of theatre. I can literally reach out and touch the audience. Audrey II can potentially bite them! That feeling of intimacy is something that excites me.
Seymour has “the special touch” when it comes to Audrey II. How are your horticultural skills?
I’m actually not too bad! Especially right now, because I’ve got humidifiers all over my apartment. I think that is keeping all of my plants healthy.
You’ve been a part of some major theater projects in New York City — Here Lies Love, the show about the life of onetime first lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos, was one of my favorite theatrical experiences ever. Do you see more life for that show?
That’s my dream, to do it in the biggest venue possible, because I think the show is so groundbreaking. I’ve never been a part of anything like it. I didn’t grow up going to theater and my parents aren’t theater fans. But my parents came and saw it — I think my Dad saw it 13 times! It drew in people who aren’t even into theater.
You discovered the world of theater later in life, correct?
I grew up on Air Force bases. My dad was in the Air Force my whole life, and there were no theatres. I played tennis and sports, and that was my life. And then I did my undergrad in Charlotte, North Carolina, which was the biggest city that I ever lived in, and found that the world is a big place. And I found theater there.
What was your “a-ha” moment with discovering theater?
It was my junior year. I was a psych major. I took an elective acting class on a whim and got assigned a monologue by Lanford Wilson from the play Lemon Sky. It was about this character meeting his estranged parent for the first time, and that was my experience in real life. And I had never acted before, and I got on stage and said these words with authority, and I thought, “Well, this was my experience, so I don’t need to act it, I can just let the words come through me.” And I just felt this electricity come through me. Out through the audience and coming from this author who I had never met before. This circular energy that was so thrilling and electric. I was hooked!
You also have a film coming out, and you have a TV project in the works.
Joel Kim Booster wrote the film Fire Island. It’s Pride and Prejudice set on [New York’s] Fire Island. Joel is a hilarious Asian American actor, comedian, writer, and I feel so lucky to be a part of this film. I’m excited for it to come out in the spring/summer of this year.
And on the TV front?
Kelvin Moon Loh, Jeigh Madjus, and I sold a show a year ago called No Rice. I can’t go into too much detail. But it’s a show that stems from Kelvin, Jeigh, and I meeting on Here Lies Love years ago. After the show, we would go out to these East Village gay bars and we would have brunch the next day and realized we were having similar experiences as gay Asian men dating. And the show was born out of that.
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