Photo by Jeff Bellante
Little Shop of Horrors closes Gateway’s season on a high note
Word on Skid Row is that “Little Shop of Horrors” was one of the most highly requested shows at the Gateway. It’s easy to see why; the much-anticipated musical comedy delivers, tongue firmly in cheek for the entire two and a half hours.
At its heart, “Little Shop of Horrors” is a cautionary tale recounting events of a “decade not too long before our own.” Seymour (Jeremy Greenbaum) is a brainiac botanist working at the failing Mushnik’s Flower Shop. Until a total eclipse of the sun, when a carnivorous plant appears and changes everything. Mr. Mushnik (Ray DeMattis) is ready to close up shop for good until florist Audrey (Crystal Kellogg) suggests displaying the “strange and interesting plant” in the window.
Business booms as the plant – Audrey II – flourishes, thirsty for human blood. As Audrey II (Jon Hoche, Trent Armand Kendall) grows, so does its insatiable need for blood. Starting with Audrey’s abusive dentist boyfriend, Orin (John Rochette), the cast of characters diminishes as the story unfolds. “Little Shop” is chock full of both cheeky and gruesome moments narrated by a trio of street urchins (Courtney Daniels, Moeisha McGill, Jerusha Cavazos).
As Seymour, Greenbaum embodies the nerdiness of the character originated by Rick Moranis in the 1986 film. Greenbaum shows his stuff as he belts “Grow for Me,” pleading with his slow-to-grow plant before pricking his finger and discovering what Audrey II really wants – blood. His performance is sincere, winning over the audience despite becoming a murderer.
In her Gateway debut, Crystal Kellogg takes on the role of Audrey. Easy to judge as a hot-mess, Kellogg nails the character’s nasally rasp and hilarity. She shines in “Somewhere That’s Green,” letting the audience in on her secret crush on Seymour. Alongside Greenbaum, “Suddenly Seymour” is a touching duet, highlighting the melodrama playing on top of the main action.
It’s tough to match Steve Martin’s iconic role as Orin Scrivello, DDS, but Rochette brings formidable passion to the role – and several others including a TV producer and agent. Rochette is a hoot, playing to the audience in “Be a Dentist.” As Mr. Mushnik, DeMattis brings the right amount of grump into the role.
We never see him, but Trent Armand Kendall is the booming voice of Audrey II. When the plant speaks for the first time – commanding Seymour to “Feed Me” – the whole room goes silent. His soulful riffs take center stage – quite literally as Audrey II grows, thanks to quick control by Jon Hoche.
Daniels, McGill and Cavazos captivate the audience as the eyes and ears of the show. The Greek chorus kicks the show into high gear with beautiful three-part doo-wop harmonies, drawing well-deserved applause after every number.
The cast breathes life into Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s well-loved, fun score, with help from music director Andrew Haile Austin. Lighting designed by Doug Harry helps build the action, creating a sense of urgency as the story takes one strange turn after another.
It’s hard not to love a show that features a giant blood hungry plant on stage, a parable about greed that plays on your fears and emotions yet still feels remarkably sweet. The action even continues outside, with exotic and carnivorous plants for sale by Long Island’s Seemore Carnivorous Gardens.
Just heed their advice: Don’t Feed the Plants.
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