Staged Cinema Productions kicked off its 15th season with an iconic musical that takes place in a decade not too long before our own. Little Shop of Horrors is one of those well-loved classic musicals. The original Off-Broadway musical was a collaboration between writer Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menkin. The blend of 1960s rock-inspired songs, campy comedy, and sci-fi proved to be a hit with audiences, and the stage version was eventually made into a 1986 feature film starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Green, and Steve Martin. Frank Oz directed the film, which obtained cult status when released to home video.
Brian Newell produces and directs Maverick Theater’s take on Little Shop of Horrors, which pays homage to the stage version of the musical. Tyler McGraw leads the cast as the hapless Seymour Krelborn, a poor resident of Skid Row who dreams of life somewhere else and a relationship with his co-worker Audrey. The pair work at Mr. Mushnik’s failing flower shop. Hoping to attract customers, Seymour places a “strange and unusual plant” in the window. The plant brings people to the flower shop, but success comes at a very high cost.
The cast is small but mighty. In addition to McGraw, it features Brian J Cook as Mr. Mushnik and Hailey Tweter as Audrey, Seymour’s love interest. Though Audrey is sometimes portrayed as ditzy and clueless, Tweter’s take on the character makes her seem like a sad, tired young woman who has been beaten down by a life spent in the gutter. The acting choice makes Audrey’s signature song, “Somewhere That’s Green,” much more poignant. Andrew Villarreal plays Audrey’s boyfriend, the masochist dentist Orin Scrivello, and an assortment of other characters. Villarreal’s knack for characterization and comic timing left the audience in stitches. Still, he also brought up the darker sides of the dentist in a way that made you feel a bit uncomfortable about laughing earlier. Jillian Lawson, Summer Greer, and Bachi Dillague are entertaining as the sassy trio of street urchins who act as a Greek chorus, helping to explain the plot while interacting with other characters.
Of course, the real star of the show is Audrey II. The carnivorous plant grows tremendously while the story moves along. The gorgeous Audrey II prop is also available after the show to take pictures with. Enrique Munoz Jr. provides the plant’s deep and soulful voice, while Jeff Kieviet does a fabulous job as the giant prop puppeteer. Both men also double as amusing, dancing drunks during the first couple of scenes.
Little Shop of Horrors is a delightfully silly show, and the actors have a lot of fun with their roles. Except for a few dark scenes of domestic violence, the production is suitable for all ages.