By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
A house plant. Not the most original present.
Unless as is the case with the newest gift from the Bowing Green State University Department of Theatre the plant happens to be the flesh eating kind and expresses its appetite in such soulful dulcet tones.
“Little House of Horrors” opens tonight (Thursday, Nov. 15) at 8 p.m. and continues with shows Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Donnell Theatre in the Wolfe Center for the Arts on campus. Click for tickets.
Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, known for their later work on Disney musical animated films, turned a grade B horror film into a delightful romp on Skid Row with tuneful, Motown inspired melodies and a story that revels in its campy roots.
This is a love story, and a weird celebration of neighborhood. “Downtown (Skid Row)” paints the scene, a place people want to flee, yet there’s a cheerfulness to the despair.
That neighborhood spirit is embodied by the three urchins, essentially a girl group from the 1960s. They are one of the show’s most inspired touches. Chiffon (Zayion Hyman), Crystal (Sherry White), and Ronnette (Gabriyel Thomas) are always on hand, a soulful Greek chorus, belting out reflections and advice, all in robust harmony and rousing rhythm. They are played as ageless sprites, always observing, and amused, but never intervening.
Seymour (played by Michael Cuschieri at the dress rehearsal I saw and on Thursday and Saturday, and played by Noah Estep on Friday and Sunday) is a child of Skid Row, a hopeless kind of nerd. An orphan he was taken in by Mushnik (Isaac Batty) who owns a flower shop. As Seymour recounts he has lived in the shop since he was a child, sleeping under a counter and eating scraps. Even God isn’t sure what to make of him.
But he loves plants and finds a peculiar species he can’t identify and brings it to the shop to nurture.
He names it Audrey II after the shop’s clerk Audrey (Anna Randazzo) whom he has a crush on.
Audrey slut-shames herself and thinks all she deserves for a boyfriend is the sadistic dentist Orin (Noah Froelich). Orin’s treatment of Audrey is hard to stomach even in a comedy. He’s a one-dimensional villian, but packed with all the minerals and vitamins a carnivorous plant needs.
Audrey has her dreams of living in a tract housing development somewhere green, in an arch bit of foreshadowing. The song really sounds like a parody of a Disney heroine — think Ariel singing “Part of Your World” — except this came first.
Randazzo invests the song with longing for Pine-Sol scented air, which makes it all the funnier.
Once Seymour discovers what Audrey II (voiced with sinister relish by Michel Carder) needs for nourishment, the plant thrives and grows hungrier.
Audrey II’s fame brings the shop prosperity that spills over into the neighborhood. The urchins get busy with deliveries and helping where they can, but you wonder how much do they know?
All this unfolds in a preposterous, wide-eyed way. “Little Shop of Horrors” leaves the audience feeling as satisfied as Audrey II after a generous meal. It’s a perfect gift.