Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Orlando Shakes

A must-see, fresh and fabulous take on the campy, classic musical comes alive in vibrant color in Lake Eola Park

BWW Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Orlando Shakes In the world of musical theatre, there are some shows that feel fresh and new, no matter how many times you see them. These are the musicals you drop everything to experience even if it may be your fortieth time. For musicals like that, the thrill of seeing what a different theatre, director, designer, or actor may do with a favorite piece can often be just as thrilling as sitting in an audience for opening night of a world premiere musical. For me, this is the case with Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS - a cautionary tale of what lengths some may take for love, fame and success all wrapped up in a colorful, fun, and nearly perfect book with catchy songs and memorable characters. A frequent choice when asked what my favorite musical may be (and I have seen/heard/performed in many), LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is the perfect mix of comedy, horror, camp and love story all rolled into one. So, imagine my thrill sitting outside (without a mask based on the new CDC rules!) at the Walt Disney Amphitheatre in Lake Eola Park on opening night of Orlando Shakes latest production as the chords of the opening number began. Excitement, anticipation, and curiosity - and I am here to tell you 100 minutes later (without intermission) my expectations were not only met, but exceeded.

For those who have not had theBWW Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Orlando Shakes pleasure of experiencing LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS for yourself, either live in a theatre or through the 1986 film starring Rick Moranis, the plot, which is set in New York sometime in the 1960's, centers around Seymour Krelborn (Ricky Cona) a shy, clumsy, but loveable orphan who works (and lives) in a Skid Row flower shop owned by Mr. Mushnik (Steve Purnick), the cranky, nebbish of a man who took Seymour in at a young age. Seymour is secretly in love with his co-worker, Audrey (Lillie Eliza Thomas), who is unfortunately dating a sadistic dentist, Orin (T. Robert Pigott). The down on its luck flower shop ("Who wants to buy flowers on Skid Row?") is on the verge of closing until Seymour introduces a strange and interesting plant that he found at a local flower market. The plant is put in the front window and the fates of everyone change in an instant. Over time, Audrey II (AC Jenkins) grows and blooms (and comes to life!) due to the unique diet Seymour feeds it (aka blood), eventually growing to a point where Seymour is forced to make a difficult choice in order to keep the plant alive. As Audrey II's appetite (and ambitions) grow bigger and more sinister, Seymour and Audrey are faced with the ultimate choice - one that could impact the fate of the world.

BWW Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Orlando Shakes So what makes Orlando Shakes' production of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS a must-see? A little bit of everything. First, director (and vocal director) Steve MacKinnon's overall vision for the show is so refreshing and new, it is hard to believe the show has been around almost forty years. His aesthetic choices and overall sensibility are current and timely while paying homage to the 60's camp horror period of the show. Small choices like reimagining a 60's atomic panic vibe with a pandemic twist (how timely!) and little touches of neon color throughout (brought to brilliant life in Bert Scott's fantastic scenic designs and Denise R. Warner's bright and comic-inspired costumes) make it clear this is not your parents' LITTLE SHOP. Mr. MacKinnon's overall direction is fast-paced and dynamic, using the stage quite effectively and bringing out fantastic performances from every last person (and plant). But what truly sets this production apart and elevates it to one of those theatrical moments that will stay with me for a very long time is how he and the Orlando Shakes' team has chosen to reimagine the role of Audrey II. Rather than rely on the larger-than-life, puppetry-driven fly trap that has become synonymous with the show, instead we get a living, breathing, fierce and fabulous Audrey II - in full drag, complete with neon boots and a towering pink wig and it not only works, but works so well you almost forget what it was like before. Don't worry - the giant plant is still there (and quite impressive - created by Vandy Wood) but it serves, instead, as a stage and home for Audrey II - a role typically relegated to only a voice over, but in this production allowed to truly shine. AC Jenkins, who so perfectly embodies the part delivers the R&B infused songs with such strength and gusto, the audience was cheering for more. From his first appearance in "Feed Me" to the last notes of a surprise encore, every time Mr. Jenkins took the stage magic was made.

But LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS BWW Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Orlando Shakes is about more than just the plant, and embodying the many denizens of Skid Row, this extremely nimble and talented cast delivers powerhouse performances as well. As Seymour, Ricky Cona is the perfect mix of nerdy loner and lovesick dreamer. As his co-worker and love interest, Audrey, Lillie Eliza Thomas, delivers a more subtle performance than I have seen in past productions, making her Audrey a bit more realistic without losing her slightly dimwitted demeanor. Both Mr. Cona and Ms. Thomas, shine vocally in their individual numbers but especially when combined for the showstopping "Suddenly, Seymour" which would have blown the roof off the theatre if we weren't outdoors. I loved Steve Purnick's interpretation of Mr. Mushnik - not as blustery as some, but more nuanced. And T. Robert Pigott was sufficiently dislikable as Orin (that's a good thing) with brilliant moments, especially the hilariously physical "Now (It's Just the Gas)". Mr. Pigott really showed off his talents as a variety of other characters later in the show. Finally, as the "urchins" Crystal, Ronette, and Chiffon, Amitria Fanae, Jasmine Maslanova-Brown, and Jataria Heyward (respectively) breathed fresh air into their roles as narrators and Greek chorus and showed off their own impressive pipes.

BWW Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Orlando Shakes As previously noted, the production benefitted greatly from some highly creative and talented people rounding out the creative team. Josh Ceballos' musical direction and leading of a small but mighty band makes the music soar, Bert Scott's multi-level, comic-inspired scenic designs adds dimension (and elevation) to the story, Denise R. Warner's bright and bold costumes add touches of light and color in an otherwise dark setting, and Kim Ball's choreography is fun, frenetic and fantastic.

Overall, Orlando Shakes' production of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is the perfect show to take in after a long, long year of restrictions, quarantine and pandemic. It is fun, exciting, brilliantly conceived, designed and performed and pure joy to witness. This is a show people will be talking about for a long time so don't miss your chance to see it for yourself in all its campy and colorful glory. I might just have to go back again myself.

------------------------------------------

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, presented by Orlando Shakes, runs at the Walt Disney Amphitheatre at Lake Eola Park (195 N Rosalind Ave, Orlando, FL 32801) through May 23rd. Tickets start at $27 and can be purchased by visiting www.orlandoshakes.org or calling 407-447-1700.

All events produced by Orlando Shakes follow health and safety guidelines and policies set by local and national government officials. Safety protocols include social distancing, face coverings, and temperature checks. The most up-to-date safety information for all of Orlando Shakes' in-person offerings can be found at: https://www.orlandoshakes.org/visit-us/frequently-asked-questions/safety/

All Photos by Tony Firriolo and feature the cast of Little Shop of Horrors


Related Articles View More Orlando Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes, and More from Your Favorite Broadway Stars

From This Author Joseph Harrison