Landree Fleming

September 2023 View more

We asked the director of Paramount’s Little Shop of Horrors for all the gory details

Fleming (front, right) as Penny Pingleton in Paramount’s 2016 production of ‘Hairspray.’
Fleming (front, right) as Penny Pingleton in Paramount’s 2016 production of Hairspray.

Don’t feed the plants. At least that’s the perennial wisdom in the classic horror-comedy musical Little Shop of Horrors, now through October 15 at Paramount Theatre in Aurora. As director, Landree Fleming is in charge of the show’s insatiable, carnivorous plant and all its human prey.

Landree Fleming

Directing has been a natural progression for Fleming, who has worked in professional theater since graduating from Pennsylvania’s Messiah College in 2007. (She’s also a nutrition coach and personal trainer on the side.) The Chicago-based actor and director is no stranger to Paramount: She played Penny in 2016’s Hairspray and evil stepsister Lucinda in this year’s Into the Woods. Last summer she codirected Fun Home with Jim Corti for Paramount’s Bold Series at Copley Theatre.

Q: How do you make a beloved musical like Little Shop feel fresh?
A: I love getting my hands on a well-known musical. Before I start any directorial process, I ask myself: If this is the one and only time I get to do this show in my lifetime, what’s my dream version? Let’s do that. And I look at the piece with fresh eyes, with my own unique lens. What do I find exciting about these characters, this story? The plant of my nightmares—what does that Audrey II look like? What stands out to me as I immerse myself in the piece that I’d love to explore further?

Q: Did you watch other versions as you prepared?
A: Once I get into preproduction, while I make sure to research source materials, I avoid watching any other productions of the piece itself so that I’m not influenced by previous works. This helps make sure that our show stands on its own and will bring a new Little Shop to those who have seen it before.

Q: What do you love most about this show?
A: My favorite thing about Little Shop could honestly change moment to moment every time I dig in, but currently, my favorite thing is its exploration of the grays. Nothing in this show is black and white. Except for perhaps what a lovely heart Audrey has.

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in theater?
A: Looking back, I’m able to see just how much my mother and my grandmother influenced my journey. My grandmother loved watching old musicals on TV and had a beautiful singing voice. She passed on her love of theater to my mother, a phenomenal actor and singer herself. Growing up, we’d watch old VHS tapes of Cats; Hello, Dolly!; Li’l Abner, just to name a few. And I love stories—I love reading them, I love telling them, I love listening to them, I love watching them. And I love the ability to pass joy along to others. So, a career in theater felt like the natural next step in my life.

Q. What’s most difficult to you about directing?
A: The most challenging aspect in general, to me, is patience with my process. I sometimes feel the urge to have all the answers immediately, but I try to squash that because it’s so important to allow for things to grow and breathe and change and morph. There will be questions some days that you can’t answer until other days, moments of uncertainty that lead to spectacular moments of discovery, and that’s where the magic happens.


Photos: Liz Lauren (Hairspray); Tyler Core (headshot)