'Little Shop of Horrors' exceeds expectations

In my three years at EMU, I’ve seen some wonderful theatre. But, the current main stage production, “Little Shop of Horrors,” is the best show I’ve seen here, hands down.

Júlia Miyahara, a freshman majoring in international affairs, said, “I really like this musical, because it touches on a lot of real-life issues like poverty and domestic violence… I had very high expectations for this production, and it exceeded them by a lot.”

The show is somewhat paradoxical – on one hand, it’s a frothy, entertaining and stylized show with catchy Motown music, while on the other, it’s a dark, grim, sometimes scary look at the lengths people will go to in order to get what they want.

But even the grim moments are delivered in ways that mock the horror genre. Even after the ominous ending, I was smiling and even laughing when the lights went up.

Normally, I’d mention particular standouts in the cast, but everyone was uniformly excellent. Nick Whittaker shines as the meek Seymour, with just the right amount of passion beneath his timid exterior. Kasey Donnelly is a perfect Audrey – poignant, vulnerable and sweet - and she and Whittaker have tremendous energy onstage together.

Matt Wallace is a delightful and often creepy (in a good way) scene-stealer as Audrey’s abusive dentist boyfriend, Orin Scrivello D.D.S (there’s a joke in the show about needing to say the entire name, but I won’t give it away), who revels in the pain of others. Wallace also plays several other small roles to great effect.

Tyler Calhoun plays the irritable Mr. Mushnik, the owner of the flower shop where Seymour and Audrey work, who is determined to capitalize on the success of Seymour’s botanical discoveries. He provides much of the comic relief in the show.

So does Nick Brown, who provides the dark, bewitching voice of Audrey II, the plant that takes advantage of Seymour in order to gain world domination. Speaking of the plant, one of the pivotal roles in the show is divvied up among three people who we never see: Abel Diaz, Emily Gilbert and Loren Hubbs are the puppeteers who helped tell the story with their effortless manipulation of every stem and tendril of the huge Audrey II puppet.

Kristin McSweeney, Kayla Younkin and Sydney Assalley are absolute perfection as the three urchin “narrators,” providing the Greek chorus and moral compass of the show. Each one shines vocally, and proves themselves very capable of the doo-wop backup singer dance moves of the 60’s.

Speaking of dance moves, director/choreographer Phil Simmons’ choreography and staging never feels forced. On the contrary, each movement the actors made is natural and stylistically appropriate—although I was hoping that either Whittaker or Calhoun would dip the other at the end of their tango in “Mushnik and Sons,” (easily one of the funniest number in the show.)

The seven-piece pit orchestra, led by music director, R. MacKenzie Lewis, navigate the score by Alan Menken that includes Motown music, some Klezmer and songs that sound like traditional musical theatre songs.

“‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is one of my favorite shows and it was really amazing to see all of the work going into this production come together to make a phenomenal show,” said Nick Casella, a senior theatre major. “It really reminded me why this show is one of my favorites.”

“Little Shop of Horrors” runs October 29, 30 and 31 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., and November 1 at 2 p.m. in Quirk Theatre.

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