By James Manso
Meet RJ Christian, one of the male leads in Tisch New Theatre’s latest production, ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’
Audrey II, the carnivorous, lover-eating plant RJ Christian plays in Tisch New Theatre‘s Little Shop of Horrors, is discovered during an eclipse. Christian, however, discovered the role on NYU’s campus, in Skirball. The freshman in Steinhardt had no idea what kind of student-run theatre groups were available, and researched them himself.
“I basically wanted to know, ‘what kind of theatre is going on at NYU? What can I be a part of?’ I youtube’d NYU Musical Theatre, and I saw some of the footage from Hairspray [Tisch New Theatre’s last production], and I was like, ‘Wow, that looks really good! I want to be involved in this,'” he said. “And I went to their theatre presentation in Skirball, and I saw they were doing Little Shop.”
The rest was history. “I’d never done Little Shop,” Christian said. “I’d never done anything like Little Shop before.” Christian is a Vocal Performance major with a concentration in Musical Theatre, which makes sense with his repertoire. He’s done “a lot of big, campy stuff,” as he puts it: Donkey in Shrek: the Musical and Bert in Mary Poppins.
Despite describing his actual goals as very classical (more along the lines of Les Misérables), something about this role beckoned him. “[It’s] something about the power and the manipulativeness,” he said. “It’s something I’ve never felt in myself, but it was that evil twist, that nasty kind of sexy, that sort of flavor I’ve never brought to a character.”
“This is something very different for me. And at first I wasn’t sure what I’d sing in my audition, but I honestly wanted to explore a character that I’d never done and Audrey II attracted me.” Something about his potential, the freshman whose talent surpasses his age, made him the perfect addition to the cast.
“When RJ said he was a freshman, I was like, ‘no?'” Director and Choreographer of the show, Casey Whyland, said. The talent-heavy cast was kept small, and Christian was just as happy to be there as everyone else was to have him. “I get to know each person as a person, which is important for establishing that chemistry when we have the characters added on,” he said. “If we know that [an actor] is a real person, it takes off that level of difficulty. All acting needs to come from a real place.”