By JEBallantyne, Jr.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – As we head into Halloween weekend, Youngstown State University’s varsity theater kicked things off Friday night with its production of the musical “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Based on Roger Corman’s 1960s film, “Little Shop” tells the story of the hapless Seymour Krel.born who works in a ramshackle row flower shop in New York City. The shop is about to close for lack of customers until Seymour stumbles upon an exotic plant during a total solar eclipse. Her little find brings overwhelming business to the decaying store until it is discovered that the plant needs blood, human blood, to survive.
With a book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken, “Little Shop of Horrors” is a fun and entertaining way to enjoy the Halloween season.
Guest director Ian Silverman updated the show from the ’60s to the’ 80s and moved it from New York City to Skid Row in Cleveland. None of this really matters as it still plays as well as the original except for a few updated song lyrics, some of which didn’t perform as well as others.
Silverman has a talented and energetic cast and you could tell they were more than anxious to return to a live audience after such a long absence during the pandemic.
Adam Dominick led the two-weekend race as Seymour (lead roles are doubles and alternate performances). Dominick treated Seymour like our poor hero who comes across this pretty little plant that he unknowingly turns into a monster. He delivers well with a strong voice and a great feel for the role of the sweet, accident-prone little nerd.
Another store employee, Audrey, is managed more than efficiently by Samantha Gurd. Audrey is a bit light on the intellectual realm but is the object of Seymour’s dreamy affections. Gurd has a powerful voice and knows the way around the stage. Audrey’s portrait has you eagerly anticipating the next entry. This character always reminds me of Carol Wayne from the old Johnny Carson Tonight Show. You can’t be much more dizzy than she was.
Shop owner Mushnik is played in style by Tommy DeLuca. DeLuca doesn’t miss a beat with Mushnik and makes the most of every second on stage. Nathanael Montgomery plays the sadistic dentist Orin (incidentally the first role of Jack Nicholson in the original film). His pleasure in playing the part shines through. He also appears in various other small roles.
The Sea Urchins have also seen a bit of a change in this production. Instead of being the trio of Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette, they became the quartet of Crystal (Lexi Cerny), Chiffon (Machiah Davis), Ronnette (Trinity Thomas) and Dawn (Lacey Farina). They serve as a sort of Greek choir and appear in many places during the show, adding vocal support to many musical numbers.
Vocally, the show is strong in all areas. Music director Maria Fenty Denison did her job well and made the most of every musical number. Some of the highlights of this department were Mushnik and Son with Dominick and DeLuca and Suddenly Seymour with Dominick, Gurd and the Urchins. Somewhere That’s Green by Gurd and Closed For Renovation with Dominick, Gurd and DeLuca were also well done.
Todd Dicken’s stage design was adequate, but seemed to lack some of the degradation one would associate with a pallet flower shop. Ellen Licitra’s lighting design adds vibe and atmosphere as well as some fun elements here and there. Kath.erine Garlick’s costumes, wigs, and makeup were colorful and fit in well with the times.
Congratulations to Wendy Akers and the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts for building and operating the Audrey II puppet in all of its various stages. The physical puppet Audrey II was very impressive, however, the portrayal of the puppet was a bit disappointing. The puppet received a face and a voice from rue Deja. And while Ms. Deja did a good job with her performance, I missed the menacing, low voice that is usually associated with Audrey II. The plant’s usual thunderous dialogue is part of what takes over Seymour. A talking plant with no eyes or a face adds to the menacing quality. Adding a face and a much higher-pitched female voice left the plant a little too anemic.
If you’re looking for fun Halloween entertainment and a fast-paced musical, Little Shop of Horrors is for you. If you’ve never seen the show, this production would be a good thing to see.
Little Shop of Horrors will continue:
Sat. Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m .; Sun. Oct 31 at 2 p.m.
Fri & Sat November 5, 6 at 7:30 p.m .; Sun. November 7 at 2 p.m.
Pictured: Tommy DeLuca, Adam Dominick, Samantha Gurd and Nathanael Montgomery star at the University Theater “Little Shop of Horrors”.
Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.