Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Based on Roger Corman's 1960 B-movie that blended science fiction with horror in a humorous way, Little Shop of Horrors follows the klutzy, poor and orphaned floral shop assistant Seymour who stumbles upon a new breed of plant that brings him fame and fortune. However, he doesn't realize that the plant, which he calls "Audrey II" in reference to his co-worker whom he is secretly in love with, will require Seymour to continually feed it blood. He also doesn't know that Audrey II has plans of its own that go far beyond the love and happiness it promises to bring Seymour in return for his help.
Little Shop of Horrors was the first successful production by composer Alan Menken and lyricist/book writer Howard Ashman, who would go on to win multiple Academy Awards for their scores to the films The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. Menken's score features many toe-tapping melodies, and Ashman's charming, swift-moving book includes quirky characters and witty lyrics. The black comedy musical has a big plant, big laughs, and an even bigger heart. After the musical debuted Off Broadway in 1982, it was adapted into the 1986 musical film and is frequently producedthere are three productions already announced for the coming season in the Phoenix area.
Director Kenny Grossman has assembled an excellent cast, all of whom have wonderful singing voices and no problem skillfully maneuvering their way around the fast-paced nature of Ashman's sometimes tricky lyrics and the changing musical styles of Menken's score. With an incredibly sweet and charming disposition, sad facial expressions, and a nerdy demeanor, Noah Lanouette's portrayal of Seymour is a lovable and endearing take on this young, lonely man that makes you instantly care for the quirky character. Allison Watson plays Audrey in a more natural way and less of the cartoonish, dumb blonde I've seen her played as in other productions. This works quite well to show Audrey simply as a naive and uneducated individual who has just made some bad decisions in her life. The innocence that both Lanouette and Watson instill in their characters makes them come across as sweet and engaging heroes.
In the supporting cast, Noah Manumaleuga is fun as Mr. Mushnik, the frenzied owner of the flower shop where Seymour and Audrey work, and Benjamin Gitell throws himself into the role of Orin, Audrey's sadistic dentist boyfriend. With excellent line delivery that is full of humor, and a singing voice that soars, Joseph Paul Cavazos is superb as the voice of Audrey II. The show uses a trio of street urchins to comment on the plot and help move it along and Vanessa Vera, Josie Wright, and Grace Dimond have the requisite amount of sassy comic timing, and rich vocals that work well together. While Grossman's direction ensures the cast present sweet and endearing characters and the cast all sing incredibly well under Ken Goodenberger's excellent music direction, there are a few humorous lines and bits that could be delivered just a bit sharper to wring even more laughs from the borsht belt style jokes in Ashman's script.
Grossman's staging makes great use of the small Spotlight space. Tina Caspary's choreography is fun and varied and the colorful, period costumes from Audrey Wawro and the hair and make up designs by Trey DeGroodt, featuring a fun, blonde, cotton candy hair-do for Audrey, add to the charm and humor in the production. Bobby Sample's scenic design is exquisite and uses monochromatic colors to depict, in a comic book style, the boarded up and crumbling buildings outside the shop as well as the store's worn down interior. Josh Hontz's lighting and sound designs are excellent and work very well with the sound of cracks of lightning and shifting shadows to add a hint of horror to the show. Through their sensational media design, Sample and Hontz have also created a humorous way to bring the funny yet cautionary finale vibrantly to life.
With a great cast and excellent creative aspects, Spotlight Youth Theatre's Little Shop of Horrors is a solid production of this upbeat, charming, and hilarious crowd-pleasing musical.
Little Shop of Horrors, through June 16, 2019, at Spotlight Youth Theatre, 10620 N 43rd Avenue, Glendale AZ. Tickets and information can be found at www.spotlightyouththeatre.org or by calling 602-843-8318.
Director: Kenny Grossman