A sad sack floral assistant’s discovery of an unusual plant opens the door to fame, fortune, and the girl he loves. All he has to do to keep the gravy train going is to make sure his plant gets plenty of a most unique diet. This is Little Shop of Horrors and it is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.
Basing a musical on a cult film would seem like a risky proposition, but it ended up being a monster success for the creators of Little Shop of Horrors. The keys to its success are that it never takes itself very seriously. In fact, the campy nature disguises the reality that this is a dark show, even a little darker than the source material. It also has a vibrant score which will get you rockin’ and rollin’ and maybe even dabbing your eyes a bit at some points.
Stephen Santa opted for a minimalist approach with the casting which really worked. Instead of a larger cast of supernumeraries, he opts for a very small cast where some of the featured performers end up playing all of the smaller roles. This allowed for some very entertaining character work. Santa also lays into the camp of the piece as nearly all of his performers go over the top, but never to an absurd degree where it would become caricature. Santa keeps the pace brisk and culls some effective performances out of his thespians.
Renzellous Brown, Keiria Marsha, and Ejanae Hume are dynamite as a do-wop Greek chorus that helps propel the story along. Seth Maisel slays as the greedy, cranky, and opportunistic floral shop owner, Mr. Mushnik. Maisel adds some depth to the character with his sympathy towards Audrey’s treatment at the hands of her abusive boyfriend. Kerri Forrester has an angelic singing voice and her Audrey scorches in her solo turns in “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Suddenly Seymour”. Josh Peyton clearly has a high old time in multiple character roles and his featured performance as the abusive and off kilter dentist, Orin Scrivello. Peyton brought an intensity to “Be a Dentist” that I’d never heard before and it truly made Orin seem like a dangerous and scary man. Dave Wingert has a nice pre-recorded intro as the voice of doom setting the stage of the story.
Paul T. Hanson is an ideal Seymour Krelborn. From head to toe, he is the beaten down nerd from the poor dress sense to his slumped shoulders to the perpetually glum expression on his face. Hanson makes you feel for Seymour as he is a genuinely nice guy who deserves a break who ends up succumbing to temptation to enjoy the nicer things in life. Hanson has a real flair for comedy and timing with an extended routine with a cut thumb that reveals his plant’s bloodlust and a bit of puppetry magic where a smaller version of Audrey II keeps trying to take a chomp out of the Greek chorus. Hanson has a splendid tenor which has a plaintive, desperate quality as he begs to get out of “Skid Row” and a real gentleness in “Suddenly Seymour”.
They say it takes a village, but I say it takes a trio to bring Audrey II to life and the synergy of Cullen Wiley, Tabor Cross, and Tyler Marshall fuse into one dynamic character. Wiley and Cross provide the animation of II’s mouths and vines and Marshall provides the vocal animation. Marshall adds just the right blend of snark and meanness to Audrey II who acts as a modern day serpent in the Garden of Eden to tempt Seymour while achieving its own devious ends. Marshall also has some killer vocal chops as he pushes Seymour towards murder in “Git It” and hungers in “Suppertime”.
Matthew Hamel has designed a suitable set for Skid Row with the rundown flower shop whose visage improves with renovations, a graffiti filled wall, and a billboard in the corner. Andrew Morgan’s properties help add to the derelict nature with garbage cans and less than pristine flowers for the shop (at first). Janet Morr paints a beautiful home on the billboard which serves as a bit of foreshadowing when the Greek chorus bursts through it to kick off the show. Tim Burkhart & John Gibilisco add the right ambient sounds with ringing phones, the mechanical whine of a dentist’s drill, and gunshots. Bradley Pesarchick’s costumes are right on the mark for the characters with Seymour’s sweater and plaid pants, Audrey’s tight dresses, the gorgeous sequined gowns of the chorus, and Orin’s starched white dental coat. This show isn’t known for big, flashy dance numbers, but DJ Tyree makes his punches count where he can with the choreography for the chorus which suits their do wop numbers and the Jewish dancing of Mushnik in “Mushnik & Son”. Darrin Golden’s technical work combined with Jim Othuse’s lights make for some pretty good neon signs in Skid Row. Jim Boggess and his orchestra worked this score with the energy of a fiery comet.
This show doesn’t try to pretend to be anything other than what it is and what it is is a fun-filled dark comedy rocker. You’ll dance. You’ll laugh. You’ll have a good time. Take a visit to this little shop and see what I mean.
Little Shop of Horrors plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through May 7. Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are on sale now, starting at $25 and may be purchased at the Box Office, by phone at (402) 553-0800, or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com. The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.