BWW Review: Charming and fun LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS takes over Centre Stage
Down on Skid Row there's a flower shop - a sad, grey store run by sad, grey people.
The gruff owner, Mr. Mushnik (Paul Noga), is frustrated by the total absence of customers. His counter help, Audrey (Mary Evan Giles), dreams of escape even as she feels trapped in an abusive relationship with a leather-jacketed dentist (Joshua Thomason). And then there's Seymour (Chris Cashon), a klutzy young nebbish who works in the back room and sweeps the floor to clean up after his own messes. But Seymour has something else in the back room, something that might actually help attract new customers. You see, one day - during an unexpected total eclipse - a very unusual plant appeared before him. Seymour named the flytrap-esque plant Audrey II, and, with Mushnik's reluctant assent, places the strange plant in the front window. Almost immediately their grey world began getting much more colorful. A bloody red color, in fact...
Centre Stage's entertaining new production of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS strips the material down to its pure essence: Z-grade horror movie meets good-time, toe-tapping musical comedy. Filled with great singing, solid laughs, and a dynamite cast, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS delivers the goods.
The heart of the show lies with the character of Seymour, and Chris Cashon nails the role. He's timid and small and conflicted and the perfect schlemiel. Cashon also displays a very fine singing voice, and great chemistry with the always divine Mary Evan Giles as Audrey. If Seymour is the heart, then Audrey is the soul and Giles' voice brings beautiful warmth to the character - her rendition of "Somewhere That's Green" is a real highlight. She's also got comic chops, which she uses here to great effect.
Josh Thomason is wonderfully antic as the sadistic dentist, displaying a hilarious swagger which helps make his appearances in several smaller roles even more amusing. "Dentist" is one of the all-time great comic numbers, and Thomason makes it his own. As Mr. Mushnik, Paul Noga is a little one-note - gruff! - but he's still funny and his duet with (or, more accurately, at) Seymour, "Mushnik and Son" is a delight.
I also really enjoyed the contributions by the three Motown-esque backup singers who help tell - and comment on - the story. Angelina Chisholm, Antoinette Hall, and Wesley Hudson all get nice moments to shine and show off Michael Cherry's entertaining doo-wop choreography. I also loved the way the three singers draped themselves around the stage and amidst the audience, offering plenty of sarcastic head shakes and eyerolls.
And then we get to Javy Pagan who plays the grown up blood-eating plant, Audrey II. Pagan gives the plant a charismatic, outsized personality and a booming singing voice to match. I loved the make up and costume effects (courtesy Vitor DeLeon and Celia Blitzer) that brought Audrey II to life and give Pagan an extra level of pizzazz that works beautifully.
Director Kevin Treu stages the show on designer Clint Walker's almost cartoonishly spare, expressionistic set. The whites, blacks, and greys of the stage and backdrop both heighten the shadows and make the greens and reds really pop when those colors start appearing. Treu keeps the proceedings light and briskly paced without moving into the realm of actual cartoon. It's a nice balance that suits both the material and the performers.
I had a great time watching LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. I think you will, too.
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS runs through October 6 at Centre Stage in Greenville, SC. For tickets and showtimes call the box office at 864.233.6733 or visit centrestage.org.
Photo credit: Escobar Photography