“Little Shop of Horrors” So Good, It’s Out of this World

I know it isn’t Halloween, but if you’ve been looking for a witty and offbeat musical comedy, I am here to tell you there’s a monster in town, and you may want to check it out. And yes, it is safe to bring along the kiddies! The fun began with the Opening Night performance of a new production of Little Shop Of Horrors,now being presented by the Montgomery College Theatre and Music Departments. The show features book and lyrics by Howard Ashmen, and Music by Alan Menken. Talented director, Jamie Hughes, (who also doubles as choreographer) has once again brought a fun-filled romp to the stage of the intimate, state-of-the-art Theater Building on The Woodlands Campus. Try not to miss it, unless you’re scared of monsters!

The stage is set with the versatile bi-level scenic design of Lorne S. Kelley and Chris Thomas. It depicts both a neatly painted city street, and the interior of a florist shop. The “doo-wop” style trio of Shawna Watson, D’Andra Swanson and Leslie Harlton open the proceedings in outrageous wigs with jazzy, pink, fringed outfits (Costume designer, Anah Ybarra) while singing (albeit a bit harshly) the lively “Little Shop of Horrors” title tune. Yes, they are a bit much, but then, they’re supposed to be.

Experienced Musical Director, David Englert, was neatly concealed beneath the stage with his talented five-piece band. It is a treat to have the “live” accompaniment, although at times the band’s volume obscured the singers. Some of the show’s early solo moments came up short, and “face mikes” and over-amplification would be distractions. But the kind of energetic ensemble choral work the cast provides, in numbers like the “Downtown” tribute to Skid Row, prove there are fine voices onstage. Then we begin to discover the excellent solo qualities of our leads, Megan Kane as Audrey, and Ben Mikolaj as Seymour. Audrey and Seymour work in the flower shop of Mr. Mushnick (amusingly played by David Kerr). Audrey is sweet with a dumb blonde streak, tight black dress, and squeaky voice to match. It seems she is being roughed up by her cruel boyfriend, the leather jacketed, motorcycling, Dr. Orin Scrivello, DDS. (Jared Reeves) Mr. Reeve’s comical characterization of the dentist is part sadistic moron and part Elvis Presley. Orin became a dentist so he could hurt people. Meanwhile, Seymour has bought an unusual little plant, sold to him by a Chinese man during a total eclipse of the sun. Need I say more?

Infatuated with Audrey, Seymour names his little (but ever growing) plant after her: Audrey II. Mr. Mikolaj offers a very smooth plant serenade with the amusing “Grow For Me.” The plant costume was not to be believed! With Mr. Kelly providing the voice, and Eduardo Suria providing the manipulation, the plant is very cleverly portrayed.

The nerdy Seymour is a bit of a geek. With his large frame eyeglasses and innocent demeanor, he looks somewhat like a Clark Kent in sneakers and baseball cap. As word of his unusual plant spreads, Seymour’s fame grows. Joining Seymour and the trio, Mr. Kerr demonstrates a mellow, rich voice in his best moments of “Don’t it Go to Show You Never Know?” The girls are amazed by Seymour’s success and sing such delicate lyrics as “All the world used to screw him; now they clamor to interview him!”

Audrey dreams of a better day, but fears she is unworthy: “I could never be Seymour’s girl! I’ve got a past!” Ms. Kane gives a touching rendition of the tender and sweet, “Somewhere that’s Green.” Her smooth, clear voice brings poignancy to Audrey’s fantasies in this great spoof of suburban living.

Another highlight was “Mushnik & Son,” with Seymour and Mr. Mushnik cavorting wildly with Latin rhythms and cute choreography to match. I overheard a woman seated near me saying, “I’ve seen this show several times and this is the best rendition of this number I’ve ever seen!” And speaking of highlights, don’t miss the pulsing backbeat of the plant’s riotous “Feed Me!” number, and the dentist office antics when Orin sings, “It’s just the Gas” to an endangered Seymour.

Act II opened with one of the show’s several forgettable and annoying tunes, “Call Back in the Morning.” But relief is quickly on the way when Audrey and Seymour pair in fine voice for “Suddenly, Seymour.” Then the high-energy “The Meek Shall Inherit” features some of the shows fine lighting (designers, Allen Ames & Tim Simitzes) with even a touch of lightning. Chris Thomas, Amy Kelley and Bill Jack Davis round out the fine cast with some fine work in multiple roles.

I won’t reveal the tricky and unexpected plot twists that follow, but I can tell you this. At curtain time, when Mr. Suria emerged to take his bow, it was easy to see he had not spent a cool and comfortable evening in that plant costume. I guess he must have headed for the showers after the applause died down.

(The Courier    4.21.02)

About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), The International Theatre Critics Association, and America's oldest theatrical club, The Lambs, he also had long service as the editor of The Lambs' Script magazine. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.
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