BWW Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Arizona Regional Theatre
Stellar music, excellent puppetry, an imaginative set, and an incredible cast are just a few of the reasons to see Little Shop of Horrors at Arizona Regional Theatre. Underneath the peppy songs and excellent staging, is a dark story about greed and self-indulgence. Little Shop serves as a social commentary regarding the dangers of capitalism, fame, and the appearance of success. The cast is energetic and extremely talented, so these themes are presented with humor and a deliberate comprehension.
The show begins with the three street urchins, Crystal, Ronette, and Chiffon, introducing the story with song. Played by Savannah Alfred, Kierra Williams, and Jonice Bernard, the urchins frame the story and provide bright spots of humor. Their robust voices blend perfectly. It is no exaggeration that I had chills throughout the entire production. The songs are deceptively simple, but the execution by these actors is award worthy.
The audience is then introduced to the rest of the cast, including the brilliant ensemble. Each member of the ensemble has a unique character that is a product of Skid Row. Overflowing with strong voices, the ensemble provides the perfect backdrop that is necessary for Little Shop to be successful. During "Somewhere That's Green", the ensemble framed Audrey's dream with honesty and the perfect amount of camp. The ensemble is tremendous, creating the distinct environment of Skid Row.
As Seymour, Issac Wilson is marvelous. His voice is clear, his character choices are unexpected, and despite Seymour's obvious failings, the audience cannot help but cheer for him. Wilson not only has excellent chemistry with his fellow cast mates, especially Hardcastle and Davidson, but creating a believable relationship with a felt puppet is a unique skill. Wilson handles the weight of his role with humor and grace. Seymour is not the typical leading man or love interest, but that is what makes Little Shop so enjoyable, in no small part due to the charm Wilson brings to the stage.
Lauren Hardcastle is smashing as Audrey. She handles the heavier material with poise which allows the audience to sympathize with her plight. All of the characters want to escape Skid Row, so Audrey latches onto anyone whom she feels can provide this escape. Audrey suffers mentally and physically at the hands of Orin Scrivello, played to smarmy perfection by Jason Hammond. The Dentist represents the decay of human decency, as well as the terror that enters the souls of those who visit the dentist. Hammond leans into his role and does not shy away from the depravity the character requires.
Scott Davidson plays Mushnik, the greedy, opportunistic, manipulative, father figure. Preying on Seymour's desire to be loved and included, Mushnik abuses his relationship with Seymour to ensure the success of his business. When faced with a moral dilemma, Mushnik realizes he can get rid of Seymour and keep the plant and profits for himself. Disguised as a decent person, Mushnik is one of the many villains in Little Shop. Davidson is brilliant. His villainy is not hard to detect, but he wears the disguise of caring patriarch skillfully.
Audrey II is brought to life by puppeteer, Adam Bullock, and voiced by Nathan Alfred. Together, Audrey II is intimidating, hilarious, maniacal, and manipulative. Alfred has a booming voice, but also brings a sultry characteristic to Audrey II. Bullock does not shy away from the physicality the role requires and the puppet is a commanding presence, especially as it grows. Audrey II is definitely the star of the show.
Another positive element of this fantastic show is that the band is present on stage. The cast does not interact with the band, but the energy created by having the band on stage is electric. Led by music director, Lincoln Wright, the band provides the perfect undertone for the action happening on stage. The choreography is inventive and era appropriate. In conjunction with the creative direction, both provided by Kimberly Shepherd, the show is campy and melodramatic.
The set is equally impressive. Designed, painted, and dressed by Kimberly Shepherd with the assistance of Kayla Etheridge, the set becomes part of the story and does not exist solely as a backdrop. Each set piece was carefully created and placed to enhance the story. I only wish I had more time to study its brilliance.
In short, this production of Little Shop of Horrors is superb. Do not miss the opportunity to visit Skid Row. The show runs through June 30 at the 3rd Street Theatre. Presented by Arizona Regional Theatre, tickets can be purchased here. You can also watch a preview of the show here, created by JALT Media.
Photo provided courtesy of JALT Media and Arizona Regional Theatre.