BWW Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at ACT Of Connecticut
On Saturday, October 5, I had the pleasure of seeing yet another stellar performance at the ACT of Connecticut, in Ridgefield, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. Having never seen this show or the movie before, I was not familiar with the story, and had no idea how intense the horror side of this show would be, as I was under the impression that comedy was the primary genre. This musical, with music by Alan Menken, captured the attention of the entire audience, generating laughs from the comedic moments, impressing us with the powerful singing, and shocking with the horror, all of which was brilliantly performed by this first-rate cast, under the brilliant direction and choreography of Jason A. Sparks.
As with all musicals at the ACT, a talented live band is present, enhancing the show. Led by P. Jason Yarcho, this five piece band has excellent precision in coordination with the cast's movements and singing.
The rotating circle in the center of the ACT stage is well utilized, spinning clockwise to change the set between the inside of the flower shop, and the outside. Behind the flower shop, apartment buildings can be seen with lights on in the windows. The appearance is authentic, the bricks even looking real. The cast flawlessly performs while the stage is rotating, as some cast members throughout the course of the show may make entrances from the outside of the flower shop, and then end up visible inside the flower shop, as the stage rotates. Scenic designer Ryan Howell and lighting designer Jack Mehler combine their talents to bring forth a truly stunning set.
The audience is drawn in right away with excellent vocal and dance performances by Kadrea Dawkins, Ashley Alexandra Seldon, and Rachelle Legrand who magnificently play the roles of Chiffon, Crystal, and Ronnette, opening with the show's signature title number "Prologue (Little Shop of Horrors)."
William Thomas Evans provides a powerful performance as the owner of the flower shop, Mr. Mushnik. His two employees are Audrey who is spectacularly performed by Laura Woyasz, and the lead character Seymour who is magnificently portrayed by Robb Sapp. Mr. Mushnik plans to close this flower shop on skid row, due to an extreme deficiency of customers. Seymour, however, as a skilled botanist, has managed to acquire a rare plant that resembles a Venus flytrap. Upon displaying it in the window, customers get drawn in and start purchasing other flowers. The popularity of just seeing this not-for-sale plant is drawing in so many customers, that the flower shop soon becomes rather famous and very lucrative for Mr. Mushnik, while Seymour's popularity soars.
Seymour is romantically interested in Audrey, so much that he names the plant, "Audrey II." While Audrey has a crush on Seymour, she believes that her past makes her unworthy of being the girl of someone like Seymour, so she is instead romantically involved with a physically abusive and lecherous motorcycle driving dentist named Orin, much to the chagrin of Seymour.
After an accidental minor injury to Seymour, resulting in slight bleeding, Seymour discovers that his plant feeds upon human blood. After making the discovery, Seymour deliberately gives himself minor injuries to help the plant grow. Soon, however, the plant begins talking, "feed me," initially being its primary words in a remarkable vocal performance by Kent Overshown, accompanied by the puppeteer expertise of Thomas Bergamo. This creates an eerily realistic feel to the plant as its alligator-like mouth, complete with teeth, moves as it speaks. The plant's ingestion demands soon exceed what Seymour could safely provide with his own blood.
The ACT artistic director Daniel C. Levine steals the show in his multiple roles, particularly as Orin. In this show, Daniel C. Levine shows ACT audiences what an extremely talented actor he is, truly becoming each character he portrays on stage, bringing life and sincerity to them all, most of which are over-the-top quirky comedic characters.
By the second act, the plant has grown large enough to swallow entire humans. Its realistic movements combined with its "feed me," vocals truly create the intended horror vibe in a way that could only be truly felt in the capacity of live entertainment. The portrayal of something frightening that could never happen or exist under normal, scientifically verifiable circumstances can often be far more terrifying than what we know could happen for real, especially when this fictional situation is experienced live, as opposed to on a screen!
Aside from the comedy, music, and horror, this show provides a fascinating look at the degree of basic human decency that some people may be willing to sacrifice in exchange for fame, money, and prestige. It also suggests that those who seek these things through dishonest means will ultimately lose even what they had before their attempts at sordid gain, a very common theme in fictional stories.
Will Seymour give in to the plant's requests for human blood and sacrifice fellow human beings to this plant? Will Seymour and Audrey get together romantically? Will other people find out about the dangers of the plant, and kill it before it is too late? Come to the show to find out!
For mature audiences, I highly recommend LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, which is scheduled to continue to run at the ACT of Connecticut, in Ridgefield, CT through Sunday, November 3, 2019. For times and tickets, please go to https://www.actofct.org/upcoming-shows.