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BWW Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Roxy's Downtown

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BWW Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Roxy's Downtown

If you want to have some serious fun this weekend, make sure you book your seats for this colorful, creative, and clever production of Little Shop of Horrors at Roxy's Downtown. The show sold out last weekend, and it's bound to sell out the next two weekends as well.

Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (Disney's The Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast, and Aladdin) wrote this show 40 years ago, and it has become not only the longest running Off Broadway show, but one of the most popular shows in the world. Seymour Krelborn, a meek floral assistant, discovers a new breed of plant and names it "Audrey II" after his insecure but sincere coworker. The carnivorous plant has a downside, though - it demands Seymour feed it human blood. Hilarity ensues. Tom Frye's simple yet effective direction and choreography moves the action along at a fast clip, and Jesse Warkentin's musical direction here is solid. The band sounds great, and the vocal blend is outstanding. This blend is also helped along by a well-balanced mix from sound man Porter Jones. David Neville's colorful lighting design really makes Mushnik's skid row florist shop by J Branson pop, and Chadwick Armstrong's bright costumes complete the vivid collaboration. Armstrong, Props Designer Beth Wise, and Assistant Director Amy Saker constructed Audrey II, and she is a beauty.

The audience was bopping along to the music the minute the band started playing the title tune. The wisecracking urchins, played to the hilt by Koko Blanton (Ronette), Levon Mathis (Chiffon), and Khyah Van Es (Crystal) swung in with their beautifully solid harmonies, and the audience was swallowed up in the fantasy. Julia Faust, as Audrey, was vulnerable and sweet, and gave us a tenderly delivered Somewhere That's Green. Her love interest, Seymour, played in great earnest by Caleb Freeman, knocked us out with his great voice. Faust and Freeman delivered an awesome Suddenly Seymour; it was utterly beautiful - their blend was perfection, and it gave me chills.

Intertwined in this madness is Mushnik, the kvetching shop owner, played adeptly by John Bates. Bates imbues the paranoid, put upon shop owner with a great intensity and believability, and makes his comedy natural and effortless. Bates has a number with Freeman, Mushnik and Son, and you might want to go every night just to watch that.

John Keckeisen plays multiple characters in this show. First we see him as the diabolical S&M Dentist, Orin, of Dentist! fame. I really liked the way John played Orin here; kind of a normal guy UNTIL you see him get turned on by the mere IDEA of causing pain. His death scene, his asphyxiation from nitro gas, with Freeman as his foil, is just perfect. Near the end of the show Keckeisen trots out a dazzling array of whacky yet interesting characters; the Editor's Wife, the NBC Exec, Skip from William Morris...replete with more fantastic character costumes in endlessly clever combinations of green from Armstrong. Dennis Arnold plays the voice of "Audrey II," and has a few cameo appearances. His nurse is not to be missed.

There were lots of fun little details I loved. As Seymour fed "Audrey II," I recognized the entrails from the show Evil Dead, which was done here years ago. Keep your eye on the clock on the wall of the little shop. I loved the cute and clever staging telephone bits for Call Back In The Morning. Blanton growled out the beginning of the finale, and those finale costumes are fabulous.

The service here at Roxy's is outstanding. The waitstaff is friendly and attentive, there is an extensive drink menu, and there will be a new food menu for every show. In addition, there are some delicious cheesecake selections from Extraordinary Cheesecakes! The stairwell that leads up to the theatre is festooned with live greenery, and there are plants on every table from The Little Shop at 310 S. Ellis Street here in Wichita. There is also a plant giveaway after the show!

Little Shop of Horrors runs August 5 - 22, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm. Prices are $10 for Students, $25 for Military, and $30 for the General Public. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 316-265-4400 or going to roxys.downtown.com, clicking on Shows and tickets and choosing 2021-2022 Season from the dropdown.

DISASTER! is up next, running September 9-26th. Seth Rudetsky will be here to see the show on September 10th and will give a masterclass on September 11th. Don't miss it!


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