ACT’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” is a spooky treat
ACT of CT, Ridgefield: Every October some theater or other offers a production of the musical “Little Shop of Horrors.” Like turkey goes with Thanksgiving, “Little Shop” goes with the Halloween season. This year, ACT of Connecticut is the first to produce the show and it is not like any other “Little Shop” you’ve ever seen. For starters, this one features a set that is so amazing that it deserves its own curtain call. No other theater has ever created a set like this. The famous Mushnik Flower Shop is center stage, but this center stage rotates. However, it is not the only building on the Skid Row block. There are dark alleys where you will find a homeless man sleeping under a pile of rags or a woman of the night strutting her stuff under a streetlight and then walking near an overflowing trash can before walking down a dark alleyway. Ryan Howell’s set envelopes the perfect atmosphere for this spooky comic musical.
What works so well for this production is that even though the premise is a bit scary, especially for the children who accompany their parents to the show, there’s enough comedy to balance off the horrors created by the blood sucking, man-eating monster plant known as Audrey II.
Based on the film of the same name, this musical has book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken. The storyline focuses on Seymour, a botanist who has found this strange plant during an eclipse. Because Seymour is so smitten with flower shop employee Audrey, he names the plant Audrey II. Audrey often shows up at work with injuries inflicted on her by her sadistic boyfriend, who happens to be a dentist.
Director-choreographer Jason A. Sparks mixes just the right amount of tension and comedy to keep the audience delighted. However, as the plant grows and grows (and it gets huge), the plot thickens as deeply as the potting soil in Audrey II’s pot.
Equity professional actors live up to their professionalism in this production. One of the special treats here is that Daniel C. Levine, the artistic director of ACT, performs as several different characters including the psycho dentist. He is not only funny, but this man has one heck of a voice. When he sings, the audience becomes so quiet in order not to miss one beautiful note. Speaking of notes and voices, Kadrea Dawkins, Ashley Alexandra Seldon, and Rachelle Legrand are spot-on with their Motown, Supremes-style vocals. Music director P. Jason Yarcho has pulled the high-scale talent base of musicians and onstage singers to new highs.
William Thomas Evans creates a memorable Mr. Mushnik and Laura Woyasz as Audrey holds up well. Robb Sapp as Seymour Krelborn is the star of the show and shines as steadily and confidently as the ever-permanent and guiding north star. Levine adds comic flair to whatever character he takes on. Because he obviously enjoys himself so much, the audience enjoys watching him. Kent Overshown is the deep threatening Voice of Audrey II. When he shouts “Feed me,” the kids in the audience turn inwards, closer to their parents. They know something bad is going to come. Ryan Parks’ costumes work like a charm, while the lighting designer Jack Mehler keeps the light in the windows changing from a golden reader’s delight to a bold and bloody red when Audrey II is feeding. John Salutz as sound designer keeps the tension high at just the right moments.
Overall, this is a grand production of a grand show that has opened the ACT of CT’s second season, but has also gotten audiences in the mood for tricks and treats. This show is most definitely a treat. It plays through Nov. 3.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: email@example.com.