In a season full of fan favorites like Rent and Mamma Mia, Gateway saved the best for last with its season closer, Little Shop of Horrors. With music and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, Little Shop of Horrors is a nonsensical musical comedy that is as entertaining as it is ludicrous. For fans who have only seen the 1986 movie starring Rick Moranis as Seymour, the musical adaptation is must-see, especially with the cast that Gateway has assembled.
It’s an invasion of the earth and the end of mankind as we know it. And it all starts in Mr. Mushniks’s (Ray DeMattis) run-down florist shop on Skid Row, a slum in New York, where the shop boy, Seymour, discovers a species of plant yet unknown to man. He names it Audrey II after his co-worker, the lovely-yet-tacky Audrey. To his horror, Seymour realizes the dark secret that will keep Audrey II alive—blood. Not just any blood, fresh human blood. Cue the screams.
Our budding botanist Seymour is played by Gateway Alum Jeremy Greenbaum, who brings his character to life so well you’ll think “Rick Moranis who?” Greenbaum has a set of pipes Moranis could only wish for. As Seymour implores Audrey II to “Grow for Me” Greenbaum belts out his lyrics, winning over the audience with a solid, heartfelt performance.
Speaking of winning over the audience, the songbirds of the Urchin trio—Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette—played by Jerusha Cavazos, Courtney Daniels and Moeisha McGill, are captivating and hysterical and keep the audience roaring with laughter. The opening numbers “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Skid Row” are clear fan favorites, and seeing it live on stage is nothing short of thrilling. The small cast is talented, never missing a beat. “Skid Row” is, hands down, one of my favorite numbers of all time—the gripping music keeps you laser-focused on the events unfolding.
Crystal Kellogg takes on the role of Audrey, the love of Seymour’s life. Audrey is naïve and meek, with an abusive boyfriend and the self-confidence of a mouse. She’s obviously got a thing for the geeky-but-loveable Seymour, and pours her heart out in her solo “Somewhere That’s Green.” She does Audrey’s signature nasally, lispy speech hilariously well, and when she sings the transformation is spellbinding.
Seymour believes Audrey is too good for him, but when he sees the way her boyfriend Orin treats her, he is filled with fury—which is the perfect time for the “hangry” Audrey II to implore Seymour to “Git It.” And by get it, Audrey II wants Seymour to kill Orin and feed him the body. Yuck! Although Seymour has deep reservations, his sudden fame and fortune has brought him closer to Audrey and he dares not deny the plant its demands.
As the story unfolds we realize that Audrey II is only getting bigger and hungrier, and Seymour is more at a loss of what to do as he battles his conscience. It’s truly amazing how the production team at Gateway brought Audrey II to life (although the giant human eating plant is a bit disturbing, it makes the show that much better). The plant is operated by a puppeteer, Jon Hoche, and vocalized by Trent Armand Kendall. The chant “feed me Seymour!” is as creepy and catchy as they come. The bigger Audrey II gets, the more Seymour realizes the horrible mistake he has made. Inevitably, he pays the ultimate sacrifice.
The moral of this dark and delightful story? Don’t feed the plants!
Little Shop of Horrors will be at the Barn in Bellport through September 9. For tickets and info visit gatewayplayhouse.org.