Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: Broadway Mingles with Buffalo in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at STARRING BUFFALO

Review: Broadway Mingles with Buffalo in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at STARRING BUFFALO
Matt Doyle

The most famous of man eating plants made a Halloween weekend appearance as LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS played out on the Shea's 710 Theatre stage Friday night. Under the auspices of the fledgling STARRING BUFFALO company, Buffalo was treated to it's second fully realized staged musical reading. Director Drew Fornarola has assembled three of Broadway's best young talents to visit the Queen City, work along side some of Buffalo's own finest actors, and mentor and perform with three of the areas High School choirs. After their fine inaugural production of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME last year at Rockwell Hall, the change of venue seemed to work perfectly.

With scripts in hand, minimal costuming and props, the company presented Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's goofy and endearing 1982 hit musical with a mostly splendid cast and a minimum of rehearsal time. The result was a grin inducing evening of great singing and theatrical absurdity. The action takes place on Skid Row, full of bums, doo-wopping street singers, cartoon character plant shop workers, a sadistic dentist ,and a man eating plant! Mushnik's floral shop is dying when clerk Seymour Krelborn accidentally stumbles on a venus fly trap type of plant that may invigorate interest in the store. His ditzy co-work Audrey supports him in every way, despite being in an abusive relationship with motorcycle riding hood of a dentist. The plant grows and comes to life only when fed drops of blood, but soon requires more and more. The shop's notoriety builds, but where will all of the blood come from? The macabre story is strictly played for laughs- as can be expected when the plant itself talks,begs and coerces Seymour in every way possible.

Matt Doyle, soon to be seen on Broadway in the revival of Stephen Sondheim's COMPANY, is Seymour. Small in stature and bespectacled, Seymour epitomizes a nerd. Doyle starts off aptly awkward, clinging to his cardigan and self conscious. Even with script in hand, Doyle fully fleshes out Seymour with his strong voice, easily reaching the high notes, and endearing the audience to root for him.

Lindsay Nicole Chambers is Audrey, and the role fit her like a tacky leopard skin dress. The part will forever be associated with it's originator Ellen Greene, lispy and ditzy beyond compare. Chambers is a true pro, placing her own stamp on Audrey, with nods to Greene, but also finding an inner soul to this larger than life character. Ms. Chambers has a voice that sucks you in from the outset, full of desperation and hope for the future-- highlighted in her showstopper "Somewhere That's Green." And when she and Doyle finally fall in love, they pull the stops out in "Suddenly Seymour"-- the audience was captivated.

Too much can't be said for the brilliant Brandon Espinoza, recently on Broadway in SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS. Although he is cast as the dentist Orin Scrivello, he takes on multiple smaller roles throughout the evening. But he near steals the show as he sings the wicked song "Be A Dentist." Espinoza is wildly entertaining to watch as master of physical comedy and multiple voices. He is as limber as he is funny, repeatedly taking hits of nitrous oxide until it leads to his eventual death. In the second act he plays multiple would be investors in the now infamous plant. He changes voices and and literally wears many hats, prancing and tripping about with each new role.

The local cast includes the hysterical and strong voiced Dudney Joseph Jr as The Plant. His imposing stature and comic timing were spot on. Dan Morris plays the shop owner Mr. Mushnik. Unfortunately on opening night he suffered from repeated pitch problems and a lack of timing that was palpable.

The trio of 3 doo wop girls, all made up from local talent, blended well and offered some street smarts and smart alleck retorts. Cecilia Monica-Lyn is Crystal, Dominique Kempf is Ronette and Alexandra McArthur is Chiffon. This girl trio smoothly strutted and swayed providing a strong back up to much of the action, reminiscent of The Chantels or The Shirelles. On opening night The Newfane Senior High School Festival Chorus blended seamlessly as vocal reinforcements in the larger numbers, culminating in the finale "Don't Feed the Plant." The chorus spilled out into the audience, as to envelope everyone in the deadly plant's clutches.

Mr. Fornarola has done a fine job in assembling the masses, providing simple staging that engages the audience, without being overly fussy. His concept of how to bring the plant to life was ingenious and effective. Usually an enormous machine of a puppet takes the stage, but he uses simple costuming pieces and Mr. Dudney's larger than life persona, along with some backup dancers (Melanie Kaisen and Katie Tomney) to flesh out the plant's reach.

Music Director Alison D'Amato led a well polished band and kept the vocals tight and polished- no small task when dealing with a short rehearsal time and multiple chorus' rotating in. For the two other performances, the Fredonia High School Chamber Choir and Lockport High School Concert Choir took to the stage.

The packed theatre bodes well for STARRING BUFFALO's future. Their next venture in the spring will be the hit musical EVITA, which should lend itself beautifully to a staged reading production. For more information, contact

MusicalFare Presents The Regional Premiere Of DISASTER! THE MUSICAL Photo
Musicalfare Theatre will present the regional premiere of DISASTER! THE MUSICAL, April 12th – May 14th at MusicalFare Theatre. Written by Seth Rudetsky & Jack Plotnick, directed by Randall Kramer, and choreographed by Robin Barker, with music direction by Theresa Quinn.

The RPO Announces Final 2022-23 Season Concerts Photo
The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) will close its 99th season with one of the greatest symphonies of all time – Mahler's  “Resurrection” – on Thursday, June 1 at 7:30 PM and Saturday, June 3 at 8 PM in Kodak Hall.

Michele Ragusa, Ali Ewoldt, Kevin Zak Lead Starring Buffalos HELLO, DOLLY! Photo
Casting has been announced and tickets are now on sale for Starring Buffalo's HELLO, DOLLY!, June 2-3 at Shea's 710 Theater.

Road Less Traveled Productions To Present A Reading Of MAJOR LEAGUE, April 1 Photo
Road Less Traveled Productions will welcome back its third annual, Screen to Stage fundraiser, featuring a staged reading of Major League written by David Ward on Saturday, April 1 at 8:00pm.  

From This Author - Michael Rabice

Michael Rabice has over  40 years of experience attending plays, musicals and opera all over the world. He is a frequent performer in opera and has appeared with the Glimmerglass Opera, A... (read more about this author)

Review: THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG at Kavinoky TheatreReview: THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG at Kavinoky Theatre
March 6, 2023

What did our critic think of Just how wrong can everything go so that it looks wrong in a perfect way? That should be the goal in any good  farce. And the farce du jour these days seems to be the ridiculously absurd but oh so perfectly titled, THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG now playing at the Kavinoky Theatre. THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG at Kavinoky Theatre?

Review: THE THIN PLACE at Road Less Traveled ProductionsReview: THE THIN PLACE at Road Less Traveled Productions
February 26, 2023

The stage can bring you to places never dreamed of before, but what about places that are even beyond your dreams...or nightmares. Lucas Hnath's THE THIN PLACE, now playing at Road Less Traveled Theatre, brings the audience along for a fascinating ride in this interactive play. The result is nothing short of brilliant as it's four players delve into a world that can only be experienced with the help of psychics or mediums.

Review: HADESTOWN at Shea's  Buffalo TheatreReview: HADESTOWN at Shea's Buffalo Theatre
February 22, 2023

Finding new ways to tell age old stories is as old as time.  Greek and Roman mythology, passion plays and Shakespearean tales are often updated or transformed from play to musical to opera or  even ballet.  Most recently the Broadway stage has found a new re-telling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth in the form of the TONY Award winning  HADESTOWN and the tour is playing at Shea's Buffalo through this Sunday.

Review: THE MAI at Irish Classical TheatreReview: THE MAI at Irish Classical Theatre
January 27, 2023

A modern day memory play  of sorts with influences of Greek mythology may be one way to describe THE MAI,  now playing at Irish Classical Theatre. Never a company to shy away from complex topics, the drama that is unfolding challenges the viewer in a myriad of ways.

Review: COME FROM AWAY at Shea's Buffalo TheatreReview: COME FROM AWAY at Shea's Buffalo Theatre
December 14, 2022

The best uplifting evening of theatrical magic is happening again just in time for the Christmas season. And no, it's not the annual Christmas Pageant at your family church. It is the remarkable true story of goodness that came out of the unthinkable tragedy of 9/11. COME FROM AWAY has returned to the Shea's Buffalo stage and it continues to enthrall audiences.