Porthouse Theatre’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is ‘suddenly spectacular’
First off, let me get this off my chest. The musical “Little Shop of Horrors” is not my favorite show. While it has a cool 50’s be-bop twist to the music I find the story of sadomasochism, blood lust, cold blooded murder and weird alien plants disturbing. Add to this the fact they kill off the hero and heroine, I find it highly disturbing but that is just me. Thus when I find myself at yet another production it had better be of the highest quality or I will pan it mercilessly. Luckily, with the Porthouse Theatre production I am able to withdraw and hide my claws. Their effort is really topnotch.
“Little Shop of Horrors” is billed as a horror comedy rock musical with music by Alan Menken and lyrics and book by Howard Ashman. Based on the 1960 film “The Little Shop of Horrors” it boasts a number of popular songs including “Skid Row (Downtown), “Somewhere That’s Green” and of course the show stopping “Suddenly, Seymour.”
The show premiered Off-Off-Broadway in 1982 before graduating to Off-Broadway where it ran for five years. Over the years it has had numerous productions in the United States and abroad as well as a subsequent Broadway run. It is also very popular with community theaters, school and amateur groups due to the small size of the cast. In 1986 it was made into a Frank Oz directed film of the same name.
The action begins with a trio of street urchins Chiffon (Jocelyn Trimmer), Crystal (Israeljah (Aylah) Khi-Reign) and Ronette (Hanna Hall) singing the opening number “Little Shop of Horrors.” Enter Seymour Kreborn (Morgan Mills) who is an adult orphan living at his place of employment (a skid row flower shop). His boss Mr. Mushnik (Timothy Culver) is on the verge of shutting down the shop unless something dramatic happens.
That something takes the form of Seymour finding a mysterious plant while shopping for some foreign oddities offered by a Chinese plant merchant as a total eclipse occurs and a form of Venus Fly Trap that Seymour has never seen before is found among the offerings. Taking the plant back to the shop he is unable to get it to thrive in spite of his best efforts of watering and plant food. That is until he pricks his finger on a rose thorn that gets a surprising reaction from the plant. Seymour begins feeding the plant his own blood as the newly named Audrey II (after a co-worker he lusts after) begins to get larger and healthier.
Soon the plant becomes bigger and Seymour becomes anemic as business picks up a thousandfold as people come to view this rare bloom making flower purchases as well. Audrey (Abby Stoffel), Seymour’s co-worker that he has a crush on, dreams of leaving her abusive dentist boyfriend, Dr. Orin Scrivello (Michael Glavan) to live an ideal suburban life “Somewhere That’s Green”. Mushnik realizes the relationship of the plant to business and Seymour to the plant and adopts Seymour as his son and full business partner. Seymour sets up a late night dental appointment with Dr. Orin with the intent on murdering him. As Orin prepares to do major dental work on Seymour he gets high on nitrous oxide but the valve sticks suffocating him as Seymour lets him die. The body is disassembled and fed to the ravenous plant with the dentist becoming the first victim in a series.
Morgan Mills is a robust and muscular Seymour who manages to emphasize the nerdiness of the character and with a good singing voice to boot. Abby Stoffel is a good match with her heavy Bronx accent that disappears when she sings. Her duet with Morgan on “Suddenly Seymour” is a real show stopper. Timothy Culver completes the flower shop trio with his delightful Jewish accent and mannerisms. Michael Glavan as Orin Scrivello plays mean to the hilt and does a great rendition of “Be a Dentist”. He also fills in on a number of small roles as skid row bum, shop customer, reporter and female Life magazine representative. Most of all, at the Saturday evening performance he had to overcome a number of prop failures that included a cardboard picture of bad teeth that refused to dislodge, a piece that fell off his nitrous helmet and mustache adhesive. Against all odds he overcame and soldiered on because that is what a true professional does. Jocelyn Trimmer, Israeljah (Aylah) Khi-Reign and Hanna Hall do a perfect be-bop harmony along with their front of the shop bit parts. Lastly, the hidden voice of Audrey II, Brian E. Chandler and puppeteer Robert Miller truly bring the giant plant to life.
The orchestra is made up of Jennifer Korecki (Conductor/Keyboard), Brad Bolton (Guitar), Don T. Day (Bass) and Scott Thomas (Percussion) who supply and ample amount of great sound to back the singers without overwhelming them.
The show is Directed by Terri J. Kent with Choreography by Martin Céspedes. Lighting Design is by Jaemin Park who brings a light and airy feel to the show. Ben Needham does an outstanding job with the Scenic Design with buildings opening up to the flower shop. Everything worked to perfection. Sarah Russell sees to it that everyone is authentically clad in the proper period costumes. Lastly, Annabell Mallard balances out the sound in a very challenging environment.
Porthouse Theatre has a long established tradition of far more hits than misses and their current production proves the point. It is a pleasant way to spend an evening with a picnic supper on the spacious grounds followed by a well produced and entertaining musical. Come see what all the fuss is about. You will be glad you did.
“Little Shop of Horrors” will be on stage at Porthouse Theatre, located on the grounds of Blossom Music Center located at 1145 W. Steels Corners Road, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, through July 2, 2022. For more information and to purchase tickets go to https://www.kent.edu/porthouse/little-shop-horrorsor call (330) 672-3884.