BWW Review: Syracuse University's LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is Thrilling at Syracuse Stage

BWW Review: Syracuse University's LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is Thrilling at Syracuse Stage
Members of the cast of The Syracuse University Department of Drama's production of Little Shop of Horrors. Photo by Michael Davis

There is no doubt that Syracuse University has a fabulous Department of Drama. This time around they are showcasing their talented students in the thrilling and cult classic musical Little Shop of Horrors at Syracuse Stage. With book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and toe-tapping tunes by Alan Menken, the show certainly provides entertainment. Meticulously directed by Brian Cimmet, the students lift character acting to new heights, show off incredible puppetry skills with Audrey II, and belt out those oh so familiar tunes with pure power backed by the onstage five-person band under the direction of Jacob Stebly.

The musical comedy is based on the low budget 1960 film of the same name by Roger Corman with a screenplay by Charles Griffith. Three street urchins - Chiffon (Brittany Adebumola), Crystal (Anju Cloud), and Ronnette (Aliana Kilmer-Setrakian) - observe and comment on the events happening at Mushnik Skid Row Florist Shop. With their help, the story of this horrific plant unfolds all to the sound of doo-wop music, rock and roll, and early Motown.

The story centers on a young florist shop worker, Seymour (Ryan Byrne), living on skid row. He comes across an odd, mysterious, and blood thirsty plant after "a total eclipse of the sun" while shopping in the wholesale flower district. Seymour's new project proves to be quite instrumental in bringing the miserable Mushnik's (Jacob Rossen) run-down florist shop out of the gutter and into a blooming business. It also plays an important part in Seymour's love life with Audrey (Amber Gatlin) - a girl he has admired from afar for so long.

Thanks to the plant, business is booming, Seymour becomes famous, and Audrey miraculously no longer needs to deal with an abusive Dentist (Crawford Horton) boyfriend. So, what could be the problem with constantly feeding a rapidly growing plant drops of fresh human blood?

Student scenic designer Roslyn Palmer sets the stage perfectly for the not so nice - and sometimes disturbing - Skid Row location with dark and littered streets and run-down florist shop. The florist shop is center stage and because the unit revolves, scene changes are easy and effortless. The fast-paced musical is never interrupted, and never loses its thrill. Senior Theater Design and Technology major Casey Lessinger's lighting enhances the dark and creepy emotions stirring on stage.

Immensely talented sophomore and junior drama students bring the house down as they bring the familiar characters to life. Their performances are professional, powerful, and passionate. The entire cast is outstanding.

BWW Review: Syracuse University's LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is Thrilling at Syracuse Stage
Ryan Byrne and Amber Gatlin in The Syracuse University Department of Drama's production of Little Shop of Horrors. Photo by Michael Davis.

Ryan Byrne portrays the loveable Seymour with impeccable comedic timing and charm. Byrne captures the geeky and sweet character perfectly with every move. His vocal ability and song interpretation skills are first rate as evidenced by his comedic and memorable rendition of "Grow for Me." Byrne has excellent chemistry with his castmates and is - without question - Seymour personified. He delivers what you expect to see and hear in the role, but makes the character his own.

Amber Gatlin is perfection as Audrey - the oblivious, submissive, and hopeful girl stuck on skid row. She delivers a very consistent performance. Her Audrey didn't seem as "dumb" or "sleazy" as others I've seen - she's a girl stuck in bad situation. Gatlin digs deeper into the role and delivers a spot on performance. Gatlin sings a beautiful rendition of "Somewhere That's Green" and a delivers a passionate performance of "Suddenly Seymour" along with Ryan Byrne.

Jacob Rossen's portrayal of Mushnik is character acting at its finest. His duet with Byrne, "Mushnik and Son," is a highlight of the production. Overall, Rossen delivers a very memorable and comedic performance.

Crawford Horton plays Orin and numerous ensemble roles, He dazzles and brings the house down every moment he is on stage. No matter what role he is playing he is captivating and hilarious. Horton's liveliness and brilliant acting explains why he is a campus favorite and will most likely be a favorite for future audiences after college. He has a blooming future in musical theater.

Audrey II - the ever growing and thirsty plant designed by Martin P. Robinson - steals the spotlight as she overtakes Mushnik's florist shop. Sophomore Acting major Alice Jüngling expertly manipulates the puppet with non-stop strength and energy as it chomps down on its main course. Sophomore Jack Fortin provides the booming vocals for Audrey II's tunes such as "Suppertime" and "Feed Me (Git It)."

Brittany Adebumola as Chiffon, Anju Cloud as Crystal, and Aliana Kilmer-Setrakian as Ronnette provide non-stop entertainment and energy from the moment the show opens with the catchy and familiar "Prologue (Little Shop of Horrors)." Their chemistry, harmonies, and solo moments are intoxicating. They also show off their enthusiastic and flawless moves with Andrea Leigh-Smith's bouncing choreography.

The show ends with an impressive and exciting "Finale (Don't Feed the Plants)" and I am not just taking about the powerful voices. Director Brian Cimmet and the students at Syracuse University bring a fresh take on Little Shop of Horrors as they close the 2017/2018 season at SU Drama. Do not miss this thrilling and entertaining production at Syracuse Stage.

Running Time: Approximately two hours with one fifteen-minute intermission.

Little Shop of Horrors runs from May 4, 2018 through May 12, 2018 at Syracuse Stage/Drama Theater Complex, 820 East Genesee Street, Syracuse, NY 13210. For tickets and information on this production call the box office at 315.443.3275, or click here. For information on Syracuse University Department of Drama, click here.

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