REVIEW: Little Shop is Definitely Bigger Than Hula-Hoops

By: Dec. 08, 2009
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Two of Philadelphia's smaller theater companies, Theatre Horizon and 11th Hour Theatre Company, have banded together to put on a unique and intimate production of this beloved musical upstairs in the Independence Studio at the Prince Music Theater.

The first technical production element that has to be mentioned is the lighting design. From the first black out to the blood red lightning fast light changes to emphasize soliloquies Shelley Hicklin's lighting incredibly enhances the show.

The half hexagonal set perfectly fits the space. Many productions of Little Shop are done on such huge stages that the idea of Mushnik's flower shop being located on Skid Row is almost unbelievable. Here, the set is small and grungy. The audience really gets the sense of being downtown on dirty Skid Row.  The Audrey Puppets, designed by Aaron Cromie and operated by Craig Patrick O'Brien were incredibly detailed.

The costumes, especially those of the urchins (who have at least 7 different outfits) are stunning. There are many more than necessary, in a good way, and they're all incredibly elaborate. The change from workers in a failing store to rich workers when business is booming is reflected in the costumes, giving us an even better sense of how times have changed. Also the Urchins changes better separate their roles as narrators a la The Supremes and the school drop-outs trying to make a buck on Skid Row.

The choreography and direction of Jenn Rose and Magan Nicole O'Brien, respectively, add another layer of comedy to the show. Everything form the harmonies, to the steps, to the picking up of cues is part of a well oiled machine but nothing feels forced. Some of the most memorable humorous moments include the Asian costumes/choreo in "Da-Doo" and the Jewish "If I Were a Rich Man-esque" dancing of Mushnik, played by Paul McElwee in "Mushnik and Son."

The Urchins - Chiffon, Crystal, and Ronnette played by Laura Giknis, Candace Thomas, and Alex Keiper respectively - are a tight knit group and their numbers rock the show. (Plus they spend most of the show in four-inch heels.) Paul McElwee's hilarious "Mushnik and Son" received one of the biggest rounds of applause from the audience. Audrey II is voiced my M. K. Hines, and though the use of a female voice was jarring at first, she had an insane ability to riff on the high notes. Carl Clemons-Hopkins as Orin was funny yet terrifying. His large stature added a lot of physical comedy to "Dentist!" And yet, when he came back as other characters, especially in "The Meek Shall Inherit, he managed to morph his body, voice, and mannerisms enough to be thoroughly convincing. Melinda Bass as Audrey and Steve Pacek as Seymour are both sympathetic and comical. Bass manages to maintain her Audrey accent even in song without getting grating and Pacek's clumsy falls around the stage make Seymour even more lovable.

Having several professional productions of Little Shop, I have to say I think I've found my favorite. Little Shop runs through December 20th. And remember - DON'T FEED THE PLANTS!





Seymour was a meek flower-shop clerk on Skid Row until the day he discovered a mysterious plant with a taste for blood. To win the love of the beautiful Audrey and to escape from his miserable life in the ghetto, he feeds the flower's deadly appetite...but at what cost? 11th Hour teams up with Theatre Horizon to bring you a "cross-pollination" of this cult classic musical like you've never seen it before!


11th Hour Theatre Company's mission is to expand the boundaries of musical theatre and develop an intimate and lasting relationship between actor and audience by producing works that explore music and culture to create an experience that is both entertaining and relevant to all members of the community.


Theatre Horizon: Through theatre, we create a community of artists, students and audiences in which each member is encouraged to grow.