OREM — At intermission of Little Shop of Horrors at the SCERA, I turned to look at my theatre companion for the evening, my husband, and suddenly realized this was the first time he had seen a production of this show, and that I had not given him any background regarding the story. For those who are not familiar with the story, its satire of “B” horror films, musical comedy, and science fiction, it can be a bit of a surprise when first watching it. Luckily, the production done by the SCERA was entertaining and well done, so even a first-timer can have a humorous evening.
Little Shop of Horrors is the story of a small floral shop right on Skid Row. The shop, and all those in it, are struggling to make a living in the worst part of town. Each character wants to find a way to get out of there to have a life that brings happiness and success. The young male lead in the story, Seymour, is an orphan who was given a home by the shop keeper, Mr. Mushnick, in exchange for working in the shop. The shop has another worker, Audrey, who is always coming in with bruises from her boyfriend, the no-good Orin Scrivello. Everyone’s fate begins to change when there is a total eclipse of the sun and a new breed of plant arrives.
SCERA’s production of Little Shop of Horrors was quite well done. The set is a rundown shop on Skid Row, and as I waited for the production to begin, I examined the little touches set designer Daniel Whiting had added. The cobwebs around the plants, garbage on the streets, and graffiti all added to the overall ambience of the stage and the run-down feeling of the setting. I was also impressed by director Jeremy Showgren‘s choice to have a few of the cast come in and out during the 15 minutes proceeding the show, and act out little scenes such as throwing out the trash or chasing a hoodlum away. That helped me get into the mood of the show. Showgren had several moments in the show that all came together to establish to the audience his great directing skills, such as the musical number “The Meek Shall Inherit.” During that number, several small cast members get solo parts, and the cast pulled together well, making it a very entertaining ensemble song. There is one moment in that number where Showgren chose to use two of the characters in a way that I had never seen done before, and I felt the choice was very creative.
Little Shop of Horrors is always a show where one can notice the costumes and props, especially the prop of the plant, Audrey II, itself. I enjoyed the different prop plants that were used as Audrey II grew in size, and felt that the colors of the costumes gave a visually pleasing view of the whole stage. I really enjoyed the trio members changing costumes, and all of Audrey’s costumes. Costume designer and assistant costume designer Deborah Bowman and Kelsey Seaver should be commended for their collaboration in making the whole image of the show a success.
Little Shop of Horrors also has three female characters who form a vocal trio, and they serve as the back up music and plot carriers for the show. Playing these parts requires a great deal of skill, as there are tight harmonies, different genres of music, and a great deal of choreography. I felt that Mollie Burdett, Shani Harper, and Lauren Ashlee Anderson did a fine job as the trio, and their combined talents seemed to stand out during both the title song and the closing “Don’t Feed the Plants.”
The character of Seymour is a sweet and loving character, who is just trying to find love and hope in the world. It is important that the person playing that keeps that characterization going during the show, as there are many things that happen that would be less humorous if Seymour did not maintain that nice guy innocence. A. J. Nielsen gave an excellent interpretation of Seymour. One thing I noticed about Nielsen is that, while he did work to portray Seymour in the way the playwright (Howard Ashman) intended, Nielsen also inserted some of his own interpretations, rather than just playing a cookie cutter version that I have often seen. For instance, in the song “Grow For Me” I saw many moments where Nielsen had presented some originality that I found refreshing.
Emily Maria Bennett played an excellent Audrey. As portrayed by Bennett, Audrey is a young lady with a lack of self-esteem that makes her think that she deserved to be with a rough fella. However, throughout the show, Bennett helped me see that there is more to Audrey than is apparent at first. One aspect I really thought Bennett did well was the comedic timing of the part. Audrey has some very funny moments and lines, and often actresses seem to miss those. One of my favorite moments in the show was the reprise of “Somewhere that’s Green” specifically because of how Bennett inserted the comedy into that song. Bennett also has a lovely voice, and I think it is impressive when an actress is able to combine both the singing skills and the acting skills to provide an evening of entertainment.
Many of the other small parts were also well done, such as Mr. Mushnick by Justin Stockett and, of course, the evil Orin Scrivello played by Mike Shepherd. Both of these men delivered their signature songs with power and skill. Shepherd’s performance of “Dentist” was probably one of the best I have ever seen, and the choreography in “Mushnick and Son” between Stockett and Nielsen was well executed. Choreographer Shawn Mortensen, throughout the show, was able to demonstrate that he understands that choreography is not just about good dancing, but another element that contributes to the whole experience of the show.
Little Shop of Horrors is frequently produced in community theaters around Halloween, and I feel it should be a fun family tradition to see this comedy together. The production at SCERA is a great option for that. But it should be especially enjoyable for first timers, like my husband.