Kim Murphy and joani mitchell join forces for ‘Little Shop of Horrors’

Tue, 07/12/2022 - 10:00am

    BELFAST — Two creative forces have combined, once again, to bring a regional theater staple to the Belfast Maskers’ stage, according to Belfast Maskers, in a news release. The riotous "Little Shop of Horrors" opens at the Basil Burwell Community Theater on July 28 and is helmed by the directing duo of Kim Murphy and joani mitchell. Though it’s their first collaboration with Maskers, it’s far from their first partnership.

    Murphy and Mitchell first met when Murphy took a position as choral director at Camden Hills High School, where mitchell had already accompanied a few musicals. That year they worked together on "Bye Bye Birdie," the first of dozens of Camden musicals on which they'd team up over the next twenty-five years. But the working relationship that began there didn't end there. They estimate that they've worked together on over 40 projects, often changing their respective roles around.

    "joani has been musical director, accompanist, pit conductor," said Murphy. "I've been stage director, musical director, pit conductor, and—this year for 'Spamalot'—half of a costumer."

    Those projects have taken them to Camden Civic Theater, Northport Music Theater, Murphy's own theater company, Murphy Theater Productions; churches; a Children's Theater Camp partnership; and now this Belfast Maskers production.

    "It's a classic; the music never gets old," said Murphy of "Little Shop of Horrors. "And it calls for a smaller cast—which is perfect for the intimate, 100-seat 'Bazz' (Basil Burwell Community Theater).

    “It is an immersive experience for audiences because of the intimacy of the space, yet the broader scope of the book is present as well," added mitchell.

    The music, of course, also appealed to mitchell. Music and lyrics were written by Alan Menken, most famous for composing the music for a slew of animated Disney hits such as "Beauty and the Beast," "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin," and "The Lion King."

    "The score is elegant in its accessibility, appealing to all ages, at the same time, distinctive," said joani. "Secondly, the plot is so deliciously campy and dark. I mean, who couldn't love a story about a strange and unusual plant from outer space?"

    When asked what made their collaborations a success in the past, joani had this to say: "What I love about our collaboration is that we know each other's strengths and trust each other. Kim has a unique sense of both the macro and the micro. I've watched her collect the most competent people around her to implement her vision, and I've seen her in the green room tacking up a hem and sewing on a snap. She has the secret of how to keep the tone on the set positive and exciting, which releases creativity from everyone."

    Murphy had similar thoughts on their working relationship: "What I love about working with joani is her incomparable musicianship; people don't realize what a musical genius she is. She supports cast members to make them sound good, she can troubleshoot musical challenges—and fix a musical problem on the fly."

    On working with the Belfast Maskers cast and crew, both spoke glowingly: "The talent and dedication of this cast and crew is outstanding,” said mitchell, “Within Kim's vision, all collaborate to bring the right amount of camp and drama to this project. This show is a technical challenge, met aptly by designers and crew. There's a lot packed in to those 90 minutes, and in air-conditioned comfort, the perfect summertime fare. Audiences will be thrilled!"

    "Little Shop of Horrors" opens at the Basil Burwell Community Theater, 17 Court Street, on Thursday, July 28, at 7 p.m., with a special $10 Preview Night Performance. The run continues Fridays and Saturdays at 7, and Sundays at 2, until August 7. Tickets can be purchased online at, where theater-goers can take advantage of a 15% discount on groups of 6 or more tickets.

    Press Release note: all lowercase is preferred spelling of joani mitchell