“Little Shop of Horrors”

On the 28 of October, 2017, my mom and I had the pleasure of attending WSU’s performance of Little Shop of Horrors, written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, on WSU’s Proscenium stage in Wilner Theatre. This show was directed by Karen L. Robu, assistant directed by Lance McDougall, musically directed by Phil Taylor and stage managed by Remy Lierz. The scenic, lighting, sound, and costume designers were Kayla Mansfield, Brandon Riney, Sydney Jordan, and Jamie R. Urban, respectively. This was my first time seeing Little Shop of Horrors, and I felt the show was excellent! The acting, costuming, makeup, sets, and lights all worked marvelously together to present this critically acclaimed show.
Little Shop of Horrors is a show about a protagonist, Seymour Krelborn, and his struggle to be loved by his boss, Muchnik, and his dream girl, Audrey. Seymour works in Mr. Mushnik’s 1960’s flower shop on Skid Road, and he explains in one of the initial scenes that one day a mysterious plant arrives at the shop. Seymour, out of adoration for Audrey, the shop receptionist, names this plant Audrey II. Seymour has trouble getting his plant to grow, and soon finds that the plant is normal plant: it had an appetite for blood- human blood! After feeding the plant his own blood for a while, Audrey II begins to sing and talk, telling Seymour that he is hungry for more than just Seymour’s blood. Seymour can’t fathom killing anyone for the sake of the plant’s longevity until Audrey’s abusive Dentist boyfriend Orin Scrivello strolls into the shop, shouting commands at Audrey. Seymour’s love for Audrey and his need for human blood sends Seymour to Dr. Scrivello’s office for a fatal dentist appointment, but instead of having to kill Orin himself, Seymour watches as the doctor laughs himself to death from from ingesting too much nitrous oxide (laughing gas). This perfect fatal opportunity allows Seymour to feed his plant and get the girl of his dreams: Audrey. However, this death raises suspicion of Seymour by Mr. Mushnik, and Seymour ends up feeding him to the plant to cover his tail! Shortly thereafter, the plant reveals its ultimate plan to Seymour: world domination! Seymour decides to kill the plant one night, so he goes out for rat poison, and while he is gone the plant convinces Audrey to get in its mouth to find Seymour. After a touching scene with Seymour attempting to save Audrey, the plant has its way, and Seymour decides it will kill the plant from the inside out, but he gets eaten by the plant. The play ends with the Greek Chorus, Chiffon, Ronette, and Crystal, singing about the plant taking over the entire Earth, warning the audience to never “feed the plants.”
The production of Little Shop was excellent, and the sets, lighting, makeup, and costuming were all true to the time period. Kayla Mansfield, the scenic designer, did a wonderful job of appropriately coloring each setting, with old, flaky paint in the rundown flower shop, and a cold, white room for the dentist’s office. It was clear that the shop was in a poor part of town due to the ruddy brick walls and sketchy passersby on occasion. The plant props were intelligently designed, and incredibly realistic. During the entire show I wondered what I would think of the plant if I was a young kid and couldn’t grasp the concept of voiceovers. I think I would have wondered how they found a plant to play the role! The lighting design, by Brandon Riney, was excellent at reflecting mood; the red lighting that highlighted killing scenes set the evil mood perfectly, and the purple lighting in the love scenes between Audrey and Seymour gave the setting a dreamy, romantic feeling.
Seymour, played by Caleb Freeman, was phenomenal in both his acting and singing, and was effective in his portrayal of the beloved character Seymour. His simple, nerd-style costuming gave the audience insight to who his character may be and how he may behave because of a familiarity with the “nerd” stock character. Also, his glasses, curly hair, and slumped posture gave him a benign and perpetually nervous look. Caleb used his voice, posture, and mannerisms to develop his character throughout the musical; in the beginning he walked quickly and kept his head down, kept quiet in the shop, and did his job as his boss Mr. Mushnik commanded. As his plant began to grow and demanded Seymour find sources of food, he became emboldened; especially in the scene in which Seymour plans to kill the dentist to feed the plant. In this scene, he pulls a gun on the dentist, and while he is nervous and shaking the entire time, this action would be typically uncharacteristic of Seymour. Caleb did an excellent job in making it clear that Seymour was still his sweet, benevolent self at heart, but his ability to be easily manipulated by the plant caused him to take action. In another scene, Seymour’s character changes and he tells Mr. Mushnik to enter the mouth of the plant because he threatened to expose Seymour for his role as a suspect in the killing of the dentist. When Mr. Mushnik gets eaten, it was clear in Caleb’s facial expressions and inability to watch that Seymour’s character did not approve of killing Mr. Mushnik. In singing, Caleb never faltered, even when he soared over high tenor notes. The voice of Seymour was apparent when he sang, and yet he never allowed his character voice to hinder his singing voice. Caleb utilized facial expression, physical stature, and his vocal intonation to give his nerdy stereotype character its defining qualities.
Seymour’s boss, Mr. Mushnik, was played by Jackson Dorris , who was excellent in his portrayal of the run down New York boss. His accent was consistent through his singing and in his speaking, and he took on the physical stature of his character as well. His posture took a belly lead, and his gestures gave him a superior, gregarious appearance. His costume, a day suit with suspenders that pulled his pants up nearly to his chest, gave him an up-tight look that fit his character perfectly. His speaking voice was full of intonation that made certain character lines funny, and added a quirky aspect to Mr. Mushnik. Jackson’s singing was wonderful, and perfect for his character; he never let his accent hinder his ability to perform vocally. Also, Jackson’s dramatic pauses and timing of lines was excellent, and made his character believable.
Audrey was played by Ari Chandler, and she did an excellent job of adopting Audrey’s sweet, quirky personality. Her high pitched voice and drawn in posture was perfect for Audrey’s character. She sang beautifully, and was consistent with her iconic accent in speaking and singing. Her vocal intonation added an innocent aspect to her character, and as an audience member it was hard not to love Audrey. She did such an excellent job of playing the role, that when her character died at the ending (spoiler alert, sorry!) it was a sad moment not only for Seymour onstage, but for the audience offstage. There was never a moment where she broke character, and she did an excellent job of making her affinity for Seymour clear in her change of voice when she spoke to him. Her timidity when she was around her evil Dentist boyfriend was clear in the shaking of her voice and closed off posture. Throughout the show Ari did a wonderful job of bringing Audrey’s famous, lovable character to life with her ability to portray emotions by only changing her voice.
This show was visually, audibly, and emotionally enriching, for the sets, lighting, costuming, and acting/singing was all excellent and fit the time period and each character exceptionally well. It was clear that the Director’s Vision was coherent throughout all the design elements, and the quality of acting, costumes, and sets was very high. I left the show wanting to listen to the entire soundtrack and memorize the show, as I have with many others. This show definitely did not disappoint!

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