A number of new businesses have sprung up along Main Street in the past few years: retro hair salons, a craft brewery and mid-mod antique shops. The most recent addition, Mushnick’s Skid Row Flower Shop, may seem like a throwback to the street’s blue-collar workaday roots, but it’s a harbinger of the future of Main Street—and the Las Vegas arts scene.
Mushnick’s is actually the set for the Majestic Repertory Theatre’s production of Little Shop of Horrors. It’s taken over the Alios Gallery, transforming the space into a skid row flower shop that’s home to a killer plant and the hapless humans who are its caretakers—and, eventually, its dinner.
“We call this season ‘the orphan season’ because this is the one that was going to continue at the Onyx,” explains Troy Heard, who was producing director of that community theater until departing to form Majestic this summer. He took the season he planned for Onyx with him. Little Shop was a natural way to inaugurate the new company. “I saw the movie in a movie theater as a 10-year-old kid. I was singing along,” Heard explains. “The two formative movies of my youth were Little Shop of Horrors and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
“This should be a destination: Come down here, spend an evening. With the close proximity to the Cockroach Theater and The Smith Center, it’s a theater district.”-Todd VonBastiaans, owner of Alios gallery.
The orphan season has found a home at Alios—owner Todd VonBastiaans is a longtime supporter of the local theater scene and had lent his lighting expertise to several of Heard’s Onyx productions. “The timing was perfect,” VonBastiaans says. “Main Street is being closed for a very long time to become a one-way street—the businesses have a hard enough time without the construction. We could help bring more theater and art to the Arts District and support our neighbors with additional foot traffic.”
He adds, “Main Street has been an on-and-off-again skid row for decades, so the opportunity of performing a musical that takes place on skid row seemed perfect.” Heard agrees that it’s an ideal location in more ways than one: “I definitely want to be Downtown. This should be a destination: Come down here, spend an evening. With the close proximity to the Cockroach Theater and The Smith Center, it’s a theater district.”
Other shows for Majestic in 2016-17 include recent Broadway black comedy Hand to God, a stage version of The Bad Seed, Carrie: The Musical and Heard’s adaptation of Cherry Orchard of the Living Dead. “There’s a very pop culture-cult sensibility with [Little Shop], Carrie and The Bad Seed,” Heard notes. But he has plans for Majestic that extend beyond camp.
“The emphasis is going to be on the American canon, old and new,” he says. “We want to do classics and premieres.” He’s interested in modern playwrights such as Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, as well as fresh takes on better-known works. “How do you do Gypsy and do it in a new way?” he says. “You always hear a director say, ‘How do you make it relevant to our time?’ But it’s also what made it fresh when it came out. What made it cutting edge? What made it the Hamilton of its time?” Heard explains that he tries to approach each show “as though it were a new script [that] just landed on [my] lap—with all due respect to the period and what was going on in society at the time.”
Little Shop of Horrors may have been written in the ’80s and set in the ’60s, but Heard feels it fits right in with 2016. “The story is fun, the music’s great,” he says, “but what makes it relevant to today is the class struggle. … Things are horrible; how the hell do we get out of skid row? And this guy is given this opportunity, this deus ex machina in the form of this plant from outer space.”
Heard looks forward to the company’s future, which includes a more traditional permanent home and “growing Majestic Repertory Theatre as a regional theater over the next five to six years.” Still, whatever happens, his mission remains the same: “No matter what I do, whether I do low art or high art or anything in between, people need to be entertained.”