Director – Egla Hassan
Music Director – Geno Young
Set Design – Michael Pettigrew
Costume Design – Barbara O'Donoghue
Lighting Design – Nikki Deshea Smith
Sound Design – David Lanza
Hair/Makeup Design – Madalyn Russell
Choreographer – Samille A. Palm
CAST (at reviewed performance)
Seymour – Gabriel Lawson
Audrey – Kyra McNeil
Audrey II (voice) – Major Attaway
Orin/Ensemble – Abel Baldazo
Mr. Mushnik – Oris Phillips, Jr.
Chiffon – Samille A. Palm
Ronnette – Darby Branch
Crystal – Mandi Green
Reviewed Performance 7/11/2014
Reviewed by Jeremy William Osborne, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Little Shop of Horrors opened off-off-Broadway in 1982 and since then has spawned countless productions around the world, including the popular 1986 film starring Rick Moranis and featuring Steve Martin. It's campy and creepy with fabulous 1960s style “doo-wop” and pop ballad musical numbers. It's in the same style as The Rocky Horror Picture Show but much more family friendly.
The musical centers around Mushnik's Flower Shop on Skid Row, a rough, low-rent neighborhood. The flower shop is failing, and as Mushnik announces he will be closing the shop, his young apprentice, Seymour, shows him a strange and interesting plant he has found which draws in customers. However, the plant has a terrible secret. It's actually a carnivorous, man-eating, fly-trap that will not be satiated until it eats all of humanity. Seymour must decide to keep the plant for his own greedy reasons or to destroy it and remain poor and unknown. Seymour's moral failing ultimately ends in tragedy and terror.
Jubilee Theatre's production is incredible. Egla Hassan has done a great job picking her cast and Geno Young provides beautiful music direction. My Friday night was made better seeing this show.
The set consists of a large brick building facade stage right with Mushnik's Flower Shop stage left. Michael Pettigrew made an interesting choice having the front windows of the flower shop face toward the audience rather than to the back. One wall, the fourth wall, of the flower shop has been completely removed, while a large picture window is outlined with a window seat and pane that only reaches partially around it, not blocking the audience's view. Hassan uses the windows several times to set up various characters’ entrances to the shop and it all works together brilliantly.
The colors of the set are dreary grays and browns with the flower shop decorated in a disgusting shade of green that looks like a sick person blew their nose on it. It's actually a great choice for setting the mood of the show.
Costumes for Little Shop of Horrors are fine. However, along with the performances, I would have liked more campiness in the outfits. Yes, Mushnik wears a silly looking dark suit with square pin-stripes, and the dentist, Orin Scrivello, wears a smock with “ADA” in red letters and a cartoon of a bloody tooth on the back, but the rest of the characters wouldn't look out of place today. Audrey, while dating the dentist, wears sexy, tight- fitting dresses, then changes to more conservative frilly skirts once he's gone, an effective way to show a change in her character.
I am most impressed with the “special gas mask” the dentist uses in “Now (It's just the gas).” Singing through a mask is difficult and often an impediment. However, the clear plastic bubble design with a nearly invisible hole in the back acts as its own amplifier, allowing the audience to not only see Abel Baldazzo's face during the song but hear him clearly.
To establish how bad Audrey's boyfriend, the sadistic dentist Orrin Scrivello, truly is, Audrey starts the musical with a black eye and every other character immediately knows it came from him. However, not enough eye makeup is used to convey the black eye to the audience, making it unnoticeable.
There isn't much past the usual basic sound design in this production. The most noticeable being the use of a special light to project “Little Shop of Horrors” on the wall of the flower shop at the beginning and end of the show. Nikki Deshea Smith tried using a nearly complete blackout during “Da-Doo.” The effect would have been more effective if she had blackened everything but kept a spotlight on Seymour.
Most performances in this show are superb, especially those by Gabriel Lawson as Seymour and Kyra McNeil as Audrey. In order to have a good show it must be built on a sturdy foundation and these two are that foundation.
Lawson plays the nerdy loser Seymour Krelborn with an outstanding tenor voice. His performance is appropriately funny with prat falls and well played, oblivious moments. He also shifts to intense moments, like Seymour’s decision to kill the dentist. Lawson quickly goes from meekly hemming and hawing at the prospect of murdering someone to a rage-filled duet with Audrey II. Lawson makes Seymour's affections for Audrey instantly recognizable and has the audience rooting for him to win the girl, making “Suddenly Seymour” a beautiful moment in the show with excellent performances from himself, McNeil and the urchins.
McNeil has a great character voice for Audrey that isn't as breathy as most that play her. She's less of the ditzy blonde and more of a woman with low-self esteem, following any man who shows interest in her blindly. Her performance of “Somewhere That's Green” is beautifully emotional and draws the audience into Audrey's world.
The weakest link in the cast is Oris Phillips, Jr. as Mr. Mushnik. Musically, his voice is amazing and his vocal performance delightful. However, his acting is rigid and line delivery lacks inflection. His performance reminds me of Nipsy Russell in the The Wiz. He just doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the cast.
Abel Baldazo is excellent as the dentist, Orrin Scrivello, DDS. He enters wearing a leather jacket, carrying an inhaler, with an annoying and somehow insidious laugh. His slicked back hair and snake-like demeanor instantly turns the audience against him and we can understand why the other characters hate him. Baldazo has a great voice and his performance of “Dentist” is a show stopper. Director Hassan even allows him to involve the audience with the number, prompting them to “say ahhh.”
The urchins, Chiffon, Ronnete and Crystal, are nicely played by Darby Branch, Mandi Green and Samille A. Palm. Synthia Green had to be replaced for the reviewed performance, and thankfully, Palm is a more than capable understudy. Serving as a Greek chorus-like group, the urchins see all things that happen on Skid Row and provide vocal backup to most songs in the show. Branch's voice is noticeably more powerful than the other two and often drowns out their harmonies, although they did get the balance correct for “Dentist.” The urchins are a great group of friends, and these three actresses show it on stage, playing off each other or playing a silly hand game in the background of a scene. I wish the director had a more organic way to stage them into a few songs rather than have them rush in stage right and off again once the song is finished.
Jubilee Theatre has a remarkable production of Little Shop of Horrors going on. Their wonderful cast and fantastic music direction makes a great combination and a lovely time on Sundance Square.
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
506 Main St.
Ft. Worth, TX 76102
Runs through August 3rd
Thursday-Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Saturday-Sunday at 3:00 pm
Tickets are $25.00 Thursday and Saturday-Sunday matinée, and $30.00 Friday- Saturday. High school and college students may purchase RUSH tickets 15 minutes before curtain with valid school ID. (Subject to availability. Limit one (1) per valid student I.D.).
For tickets and information, go to http://www.jubileetheatre.org/ or call their box office at 817-338-4411.