Off to Camp: Inside LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS with Costume Designer Serena Sandoval

Off to Camp: Inside LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS with Costume Designer Serena Sandoval

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Pictured: Dana Tretta as Audrey

by Serena Sandoval

There are some designers, some theaters, that don’t dare to embrace the tacky. But there are some shows where tacky just works. In the case of “Little Shop of Horrors,” one of the most famous campy-horror films ever created, leaning into the nature of the tacky, of the camp itself, is essential for pulling off the production—one that fully blends influences from the late 50’s to create something colorful, memorable – something that stands out from the pack.

The staggering fame of Little Shop brings with it a unique set of advantages—and hurdles—that present themselves in the design process. Most people have a working knowledge of “Little Shop,” gained from one of its many renditions—there have been two movies and countless stage adaptations, and the phrase “Feed me, Seymour” is one of the most quoted movie lines ever written. When it comes to design, it can be difficult to work around such a set public image—to create something new and memorable to make people remember the Mercury’s production as something singular, something different. We’re setting out not to break the mold with this production but reshape it into something that has the Mercury’s spirit and pays homage to all the renditions that have come before.

This production had a very fast turnaround time—we hit the ground running with every element of the creative design, and there were details and elements of the show that I came into the position already equipped with. From the very beginning, I knew that Audrey would have to wear the loudest, most tacky (there’s that word again) magenta out there, that our Dentist would have to have his own special flair, and that there would be a clash of pastel and bright colors flowing through most of the production. The colors and costumes in our “Little Shop” will speak to the vividness of the characters, and hopefully help the audience along in finding facets of each of their personalities that everyone can relate to.

It’s no secret that characters, or monsters, like Audrey II, symbolize a bigger theme—to me, she represents the cautionary tale to kill your own demons, don’t let them consume you. I’m thrilled for audiences to experience our production of “Little Shop,” and I hope they take away their own kind of meaning as well – in the design elements and beyond.

Mercury Theater Chicago’s LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS runs March 1 through April 28. More info at, or over the phone at 773.325.1700.

SERENA SANDOVAL is ecstatic to make her designing debut at the Mercury, after being wardrobe supervisor on the Mercury stage (“Avenue Q,” “Bunny Bunny: Gilda Radner, A Sort Of Love Story,” “The Christmas Schooner,” “Dracula,” “Hair”), and in the Venus Cabaret (“Pippin,” “Company”). Chicago credits include: “Birdland” (Steep Theatre); “The Magnificent Wonder,” “Cursed Costumes,” “Another Castle,” and “Secrets, Lies, and Super Spies” (Actors Gymnasium); “Lolita De Lares,” “Julia De Burgos: Child Of Water” (Urban Theater); and “Dogfight,” Seussical The Musical Jr.,” “Xanadu Jr.” (Bravo! Performing Arts Academy). Serena wardrobed at Firebrand Theatre (“Caroline, Or Change,” “Lizzie”), and stitched on multiple shows through Uber Costume at Lookingglass Theatre, Writers Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Boho Theatre, and Court Theatre. 

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