Scifi, B movie monsters, comic book colors, and the imminent threat to humanity via your local florist have never looked as good as it does in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at New Village Arts, playing through August 4th. Honestly, this production and talented cast so perfectly define campy, musical fun it’s a shame it couldn’t go to The Met Gala this year.
For those uninitiated to the flower shop on skid row, our loveable hero Seymour Krelborn (Sittichai Chaiyahat) finds a “strange and interesting plant” that mysteriously appeared during during a total eclipse of the sun. Naturally, he bought it and named it Audrey 2, after Audrey (Cashae Monya) his beautiful, if ditzy coworker who has terrible relationship instincts.
Both work for Mrs. Mushnik (Melissa Fernandes), who is the owner of this deteriorating flower shop. Skid row isn’t complete without some commentary (musical of course)) from the neighborhood hoodlums (Natasha Baenisch, Chris Bona, and Patricia Jewel) and a bum that hangs around on the doorstep.
The plant draws in the customers and their money, and as Audrey 2 grows bigger and stronger, she develops an attitude, the voice of a R&B diva, and promises to make all of Seymour’s dreams come true. Unfortunately, in order to get his heart’s desire he has to make a Faustian deal with a plant that thrives on a diet of human blood. (Insert evil laugh here)
Characters are seen reading “Tales from the Crypt” comics, while the set features posters of movies like “Blood of the Vampire”, “Attack of the Puppet People”, and ”Devil Girl from Mars.” Directed by AJ Knox this production embraces the charm and aesthetic of B movie’s and comic books, while playing up the humanity of the characters during these fantastical events.
It’s the talented cast that keeps the show buoyant and feeling playful while the body count rises. Their killer vocals with the Rock n Roll, and Motown influenced score by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (who are also responsible for many Disney animated classic musicals with lower body counts) mean this show has the musical chops to keep up with the plot twists.
Chaiyahat’s Seymour is vulnerable and endearing as the loveable loser who just wants to get the girl. His earnestness is palpable and shines through his emotive vocals, while his comedic physicality keeps the audience rooting for this down on his luck clerk. Especially funny is his puppeteering as he tries to control a larger and more aggressive Audrey 2 who is trying to bite passersby.
Cashae Monya is the beautiful bimbo with a heart of gold and a voice to match. Her “Somewhere That’s Green” gets some updated vocal flair to go along with her dreamy contemplation. The lyrics even get an update with “Cook like Betty Crocker and look like Ruby Dee.”
Most of the narration comes from Baenisch, Bona, and Jewel who serve as a Greek chorus of sorts, while belting out some amazing riffs full of attitude, strong vocals, and a lot of sass.
Fernandes as the weary entrepreneur Mushnik is very funny with hidden bottles of booze, and even less hidden eye rolls at her employees. When business and cash increase, her behavior, and costumes only get funnier.
Phillip David Black is hilarious as a multitude of characters, but stands out as the infamous Orin Scrivello D.D.S. Instead of a straight villain, he is the most charming sociopath you’ll ever see with lots of comedic touches.In keeping with the B movie theme, his villainy gets highlighted with the obvious accessories of a candelabra, skull, and cobwebs on his dental table.
Let’s face it though – we’re all here for the plant. When Audrey 2 gets big enough she blooms into the amazing Eboni Muse, who looks like a B movie space queen here to conquer the planet; which is apt since her vocals are out of this world. Honestly, if you don’t root for the plant I’m not sure which show you’re watching.
Set design by Doug Cumming is versatile and makes the best use of the space, and allows for the Greek chorus trio to do some fun 50’s girl group inspired choreography by Kevin “Blax” Burroughs. Costume design by Amanda Quivey is colorful and period appropriate, and takes a fun and creative turn when dealing with Audrey 2 and her saplings.
Puppet design by Madison Mellon allows Audrey 2 to go from an adorable little potted plant to a store swallowing super villain all while being able to move around and interact convincingly. (The baby Audrey 2 is so adorable that if it ever “disappears” please know that it has a loving home in my living room.)
I could say more, but honestly just go see this fun summer show and remember “don’t feed the plants.”
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is playing at New Village Arts through August 4th. For performance times and ticket information please go to www.newvillagearts.org