LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORSBook by Howard Ashman
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Granbury Theatre Company
Director: Luke Hunt
Assistant Director: A Solomon Abah
Music Director: Shannah Rae
Choreographer: Rachel Hunt
Scenic and Puppet Designer: Phil Groeschel
Assistant Scenic and Puppet Designer: Kerri Pavelick
Costume Designer: Emily Warwick
Lighting Designer: Kalani Morrissette
Sound Designer: Kyle Hoffman
Ronette: Amanda Brooks
Crystal: Cessany Ford
Chiffon: Amber Lanning
Mushnik: Jay A. Cornils
Audrey: Claudia Fain
Seymour: Dakota Brown
Rich Customer/Skip Snip/Ensemble: Micky Shearon
Radio Interviewer/Wino 1/Ensemble: Zach Zagrocki
Orrin: Xan Cramer
Audrey II: Hugh Lehman
Bernstein/Wino 2/Ensemble: Christian Loper
Mrs. Luce/Ensemble: Brittany Sansom
Martin/Ensemble: Faith Melton
Ensemble: Reilly Kaye Anderson
Reviewed Performance: 2/27/2016
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The popularity of the musical among community theater production companies has remained fairly constant, partly due to its relatively simple score and its fairly lighthearted and audience-pleasing plot. The rock musical can be considered a dark farce. This could lead to some over-the-top acting and interpretation, but the cast and crew in Granbury, under the direction of Luke Hunt, managed to inject just the right amount of self-deprecating fun to make the evening thoroughly enjoyable.
The action takes place almost entirely in a flower shop on skid row in the 1960s. The story follows a young, nerdy Seymour, and vivacious, somewhat trashy Audrey, working for Mushnik in his flower shop. Seymour is predictably infatuated with Audrey but she continually serves herself up as a punching bag for the evil dentist, Orrin. Add a mysterious carnivorous talking plant to the mix and the plot deepens.
The beautifully renovated theatre includes a proscenium stage that was transformed by set designer, Phil Groeschel. The set included the interior of the flower shop, with a wall used downstage when the action took place outside of the flower shop. On either side of the stage were brief pieces indicating alleyways and brick buildings. These were most often used by the trio of singers providing timely do-wop background and Motown-inspired numbers. The three vocalists, Amanda Brooks, Cessany Ford, and Amber Lanning injected entertainment in all the right places to help keep the plot moving. The mellow voice of Amanda Brooks was especially enjoyable during her few solos.
Groeschel also designed the puppets used to bring the plant, Audrey II, to life. From its smallest – a hand puppet in a flower pot, to the bigger than life monster it became, the plant and puppetry were a vital part of both the scenery and the action. I was especially impressed with the clever ways the puppetry was facilitated during different phases of the plant’s growth.
Costumes by Emily Warwick were spot on in every way. Always period appropriate, the togs were fun and specific to each character. From a red leisure suit, to the flashy and glamorous costumes worn by the singing trio, the costuming showed an attention to detail that enhanced the performance.
The performances of the ensemble are worth a special mention. The musical has a few parts that some would consider minimal, but each of the members of the ensemble took their piece of the action to heart and made their roles meaningful to the action. There were two especially noteworthy performances. Zach Zagroski brought a dry humor to the role of a seemingly insignificant wino with his low voice and impeccable timing. Micky Shearon, in several roles, was especially entertaining as the leisure-suit-wearing rich customer.
Any time an ensemble makes an impression, it is to the credit of a director who has assembled a cast that works well together in addition to each actors’ dedication to the craft. The principal cast members shone throughout the performance due to the strength of each member of the cast and crew.
Audrey II was voiced by Hugh Lehman. His powerful voice, which is all we heard or saw of him, had to be perfectly delivered and Lehman certainly achieved that perfection. The puppeteer inside of the giant plant was Christian Loper, who deserves notice as the patient and effective energy within the plant.
Jay Cornils portrayed Mushnik professionally. The opportunities abounded to be over-the-top in this role, but Cornils doled out his lines with just the right amount of playful shtick.
The sadomasochistic dentist, Orrin, was played by Xan Cramer. Cramer seemingly channeled Steve Martin’s film performance, especially during the number Be a Dentist. His thoroughly slimy movement and facial expressions magnified the evil he portrayed.
Claudia Fain was delightful in her portrayal of Audrey. She had an ability to transition between funny and somewhat trashy behaviors to vulnerable and sad realities seamlessly. Her delivery was always well-timed and each meaningful eye and facial expression added subtle meaning to the performance. Her vocals on Somewhere That’s Green were perfectly humorous yet moving at the same time.
Seymour was brilliantly played by Dakota Brown. He was perfectly cast in this role as a cute but nerdy young man who has an overall positive attitude despite his circumstances. Through his peaceful and friendly demeanor on stage, Brown delivered Seymour directly into the hearts of his audience, causing us to forgive his dastardly acts and hope for the best. The combination of Brown and Fain worked well together.
The evening was marked with an attention to detail, a smoothly running cast and crew, and a thoroughly enjoyable plot and performances. Although Granbury is a bit of a drive for many in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, it is well worth the trip. Combined with one of the area’s bed and breakfasts or hotels, Little Shop of Horrors rounds out a cool weekend getaway. Without the overnight, a drive to see the fabulous show and its venue is time well spent.
Granbury Theatre Company at the Granbury Opera House, 133 E. Pearl Street, Granbury, TX
Runs through March 20
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm., Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00pm. Tickets are $20-30, based on performance, seating, and age. Discount pricing for groups of 10 or more. For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.granburytheatrecompany.org or call the box office at 817-579-0952.