- Nate Adams
'Little Shop of Horrors' review: Campy cult classic soars at The Croswell
Courtesy of The Croswell Opera House
“FEED ME!” “FEED ME!” “FEED ME, SEYMOUR!”
That line will forever be etched into my brain, and you’ll be quoting it for months after seeing The Croswell’s latest, near Broadway caliber production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” the campy cult classic inspired, mostly, by the 1986 musical starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, which featured walk-on cameos from Bill Murray, Steve Martin, and countless others. The same type of infectious, comedic energy is present in the Croswell’s version, headlined by veterans Mikey Del Vecchio, Jamie Lynne Buechele, John Bacarella, and Jarrod Alexander. And with direction by Jared Hoffert, scenic work by Doug Miller, Jonathan Sills’ music direction, Jessica Briggs’ choreography, and even Danielle Bluteau stage-managing, running a tight ship behind the scenes, it’s literally a who’s-who of A-listers. They alone are worth the price of admission.
But the entire cast and crew are aces, helping envision and bring “Little Shop,” a musical not known for its, uh, thought-provoking context or hearty messaging, to the stage. The story, set in a rough, worn-down New York City neighborhood nicknamed Skid Row, has a basic sweetness baked into its DNA that, believe it or not, lends itself to the crux of the show, which revolves around a man-eating, Venus flytrap looking plant named Audrey II. Audrey II is voiced in this production by Adam Baker who does the great Levi Stubbs proud and is operated by Rob Roy, someone I imagine has the stamina and resilience of a seasoned bullfighter, judging by the acrobatics and movements he encapsulates while living inside the Audrey II puppet for the entire show. Someone needs to buy that man a beer.
The Croswell has spared no expense in acquiring several Audrey II puppets that appear nearly identical to the one you remember seeing in the movie or, if you were lucky enough, on Broadway. It gives the actors plenty to interact with, especially lowly floral shop worker Seymour (Del Vecchio), his boss, Mr. Mushnik (Bacarella), and the inspiration behind the infamous plant’s name, Audrey (Buechele). The trio are revelations inside this quirky show centered around Seymour’s “creation” and his mega-sized crush on Audrey. Del Vecchio, wearing sneakers, a gray sweater and dorky glasses, delivers a transformative performance, bringing levity to the character alongside Buechele’s Audrey who maintains a thick blonde wig, high heels, and heavy Brooklyn accent throughout the performance. The chemistry among the two can’t be overstated and the soothing rendition of “Somewhere That’s Green” only reinforced the palpable romantic tension between them.
Then again, everyone understood the assignment, none more so than Jarrod Alexander’s scene-stealing performance as the sadistic dentist and Audrey’s abusive and Nitrous Oxide addicted boyfriend, Orin Scrivello (don’t forget the DDS!). It’s a brief role in which Alexander gets tons of mileage from with my only complaint being there wasn’t enough, and that’s expected from a show that runs a breezy 120-minutes with intermission. The ensemble is rounded out with gusto by Sabriyah Davis, Keshia Daisy Oliver, and CaSaundra Taulton as the greek chorus tasked with providing the show’s titular track and then some; Megan Beckett, Julia Hoffert, John Lamb, Henry Seifried, and Joel Twitchell also show-up in minor bit parts that range from a blind women, a flasher, to shady salesman and marketing executives that had myself and the crowd howling.
Director Jared Hoffert has worn many hats on the Croswell stage and his directing debut adds another feather in the cap and aside from some occasionally, to be expected, opening night line flubs, clunky interactions, and very distracting sound issues in the opening minutes, “Little Shop of Horrors” is nothing short of a great time. Marley Boone’s costuming pops under Tiff Cruthfield’s lighting, and credit to sound designer Chris Goosman who quickly, with the help of his experienced crew, resolved the sound miscues experienced during the first performance and who all made sure Baker sounded top notch.
In the end, “Little Shop of Horrors” shows the strength and combined power of what community theater is capable of. How lucky are we to witness and experience a show this wacky, gorgeous, outlandish and just plain fun right in our own backyards?
The Croswell’s production of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS continues through July 24th. You can purchase tickets by clicking here.