Spooky and delicious sci-fi meets paranormal pop/rock in the Porthouse Theatre’s production of the horror musical ‘Little Shop of Horrors’, directed by Terri J. Kent. And while it might make you guess buying a Venus flytrap anytime soon, the show will certainly have you jumping in your seats.
Loosely based on the 1960s B-movie of the same name, the musical version with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken – had its Off-Broadway premiere in 1982, winning several awards including the 1982 Drama Desk Award -1983 for Outstanding Musical.
Much like the man-eating factory itself, other productions began to sprout in other parts of the world, starting with one in London’s West End, followed by several in Australia and Canada.
Fast forward to today, and the story of Seymour, Audrey, and her murderous namesake, the Audrey II, has become a staple among theatrical seasons presented by high schools, colleges, and professional venues.
Off-Broadway’s current revival opened in 2019 and features Broadway vet Christian Borle as masochist Orin Scrivello, DDS.
The story takes place at Mushnik’s Skid Row flower shop, which is suffering for business until Nebbish clerk Seymour Krelbourne puts his “strange and interesting plant” in the window. Like magic, a customer is immediately drawn to the plant and orders $100 worth of roses.
It doesn’t take long to realize that the key to the shop’s success is the health and growth of this plant – affectionately named “Audrey II” after the object of Seymour’s affection, fellow Audrey, who is in an abusive relationship with Orin Scrivello, a dentist who enjoys making his patients suffer…and his girlfriend.
The problem is that the plant eats blood, and possibly people. How will Seymour find enough “food” to keep his plant healthy and maintain his sudden success? Seymour exclaims, “I don’t know anyone who deserves to be chopped up and fed to a starving plant!” And just as Seymour sees Orin punching his girlfriend, Audrey II responds, “Mmmmmm, of course.” The plot thickens and takes a crazy turn.
As you prune this “plant” and weed through murder, abuse, and occasional drug use, you’ll find a fun and tongue-in-cheek musical waiting for a talented cast to bring it to life, and the Porthouse troupe does not disappoint.
Secondary characters are the scene-stealers of this production, starting with Jocelyn Trimmer, Israeljah Khi-Reign and Hannah Hall as, respectively, Chiffon, Crystal and Ronette, the three street urchins who serve as a sort of Greek chorus. throughout the show. Their glorious voices fill the entire space and their perfect harmonies keep the audience from singing along. They form a trio and are individually distinguished by their attitude and voice.
Timothy Culver is hilarious as miserly shop owner Mr. Mushnik. He’s adorably cantankerous, and we can almost see the light bulb go off in his brain when he realizes he has to babysit Seymour. His shrewd proposal to make Seymour his son unfolds in a delightful tango-meets-Tevye-style duet, where Culver’s vocal chops shine.
Michael Glavin is the guy audiences love to hate as the sadistic Scrivello. His stage presence is larger than life, he’s good at physical comedy, and he has an impressive voice. We want him to feed on this plant, but we also want more Glavin. Fortunately, he has a few funny appearances throughout the series.
Brian Chandler, as the voice of the man-eating plant Audrey II, has the soft, deep, menacing voice you expect in this role, plus the perfect amount of chutzpah. With the help of puppeteer Robert Miller, Audrey II becomes a delightfully diabolical force to be reckoned with.
Morgan Mills and Abby Soffel, as Seymour and Audrey, have incredible vocal versatility, which allows each of them to sing tenderly but also hit all the big, powerful notes that make songs like “Suddenly Seymour” stand out. stand out. However, they lack chemistry as a couple, with Mills playing Seymour more pragmatically, rather than a nerdy, unlucky person. And Soffel embraces the sad and reluctant parts of Audrey but loses some of the optimistic facades the character typically relies on to carry her through life. Both gloss over some of the “bits” that add humor to their scenes, but they still deliver charming performances.
The production as a whole is a blast, under the watchful eye of Terri Kent and the ever-creative and playful choreography of Martin Cespedes, with a thoughtful step for every beat in the fun score that nods to a myriad of musical styles.
Head to Porthouse if you’re up for a wild spectacle that’s “out of this world”. Don’t sit too close to the stage, or Audrey II might pick you up next!
“Little Shop of Horrors”
Continues through July 2 at the Porthouse Theater 3143 O’Neil Road, Cuyahoga Falls. For tickets, $25 to $45, call 330-672-3884 or visit kent.edu/porthouse.