BWW Reviews: Inspiration Stage's LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is a Bloody, Good Show
This is a hard review for someone like me to write. Because so many elements of the production shine, it is hard to sum up the show in a clever one-liner. And believe me, I tried.
"Cast flowers under direction from Mandy Seymore-Sensat and Johnny Nichols, Jr.!"
"Costuming and props are monstrously good!"
"LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is a bloody good show that'll make you hungry for more. It's sure to be this season's perennial favorite!"
A list of poorly punned compliments. Such is the burden of such a fantastic and effective production. In all seriousness, because LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS has a flimsy premise and narrative, the direction, performances and technical elements make the show.
As with all of my reviews from here on out, you can stop here, but if you want my super awesome breakdown, you'll have to read on.
Though the narrative of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS can be boiled down to man helps man-eating plant eat man, everyone involved in the production makes the experience so much richer.
Director/Choreographer Mandy Seymore-Sensat creates a fun and upbeat production with an underlying malevolence.
Music Director Johnny Nichols Jr.'s vocal coaching saves the day. When the play lags in the last few minutes of Act I, he and the performers come back strong at the start of Act II.
Costume Designer (and Assistant Director) Nick Thomas makes some fantastic choices. I enjoyed his interpretation of Audrey I's style - fashionably tacky - and was delighted by the Diana Ross and The Supremes-inspired dresses chosen for the trio.
Continuing the trend of mixing griminess with beauty, the set design against the costuming against the lighting creates an elaborate and layered aesthetic while still conjuring the image of "skid-row."
The props by Johnny Nichols Jr., Mandy Seymore-Sensat and Brianna Escobedo are wonderful. And I still wonder how Jason Carson (Audrey II Puppeteer and Bum) pulls off the puppeteering so smoothly.
John Morales' Lighting Design is a perfect accompaniment to the production. For instance, the production could easily cause visually overload but the lighting helps focus my eye. It is also aesthetic. The colors pair perfectly with the set and costumes. And, last but not least, it is artful. If you look closely, you'll see that the the lighting conveys themes just as effectively as the dialogue.
As Sound Operator, Mandy Seymore-Sensat does a good job overall. I was happy to be able to hear the vocalists clearly. However, a sticking point - at the end of the play, I could not hear the characters very well.
The cast is talented. Daniel Edwards (Seymour Krelborn) is very good in his role. He is great at conveying the mousiness of the character while maintaining believability.
I commend Roxann Hales' (Audrey) ability to imbue vulnerabilty into her comedic character through her vocal performance.
Can we talk about the skid row greek chorus? Good. Very recently, I saw Leslie Sharp (Crystal) in Stage Door's LEGALLY BLONDE. She was a great performer there and she's a great performer here. Girl has skills. I'm not sure if she is formally trained in music and dance, but it sure seems so. I like that Jennifer Agbu (Ronnette) infuses oomph into every movement and note. And Annelea Bootle (Chiffon) is a highly skilled singer with a beautiful voice. I look forward to seeing (and hearing) more of her in the future.
I just cannot describe how much I enjoyed Luke Hales' (Audrey II Voice as well as Narrator and Bum) vocal performance. Everything about it is fantastic. Everything. What an instrument he has.
Alec Trevino (Orin Scrivello, Wino, Ensemble) is strong movement-wise and somehow manages to make me laugh at a psychotic dentist and a boyfriend who is prone to domestic violence.
Lastly, Music Director Johnny Nichols Jr.'s decision to include a live band (composed of Johnny Nichols Jr., Aaron Hervey, Ethan Sedelmeier, John Koozin and Nick Matzky) is great. It enhances the production in all the right ways. In general, I am partial to live music in musicals whenever it is possible and appropriate.
Good job, Inspiration Stage. Good job.