Big applause for Little Shop

A human-eating plant took center stage this weekend as the Chappell Players Theater Group’s production of “Little Shop of
Horrors” opened on Oct. 14, with flashy musical numbers and strong performances.

The musical is the story of Seymour, a shop worker in a flower shop in a down-and-out neighborhood known as Skid Row, and an out-of-this-world
plant that requires a different type of plant food.

The dark comedy had strong performances from its stars, Kurt Cruz (Seymour), Justin Phillips (Mr. Mushnik), and Stacey Rivera (Audrey). All three combined strong vocal and character performances with physical humor.

Cruz especially balanced playing a meek, humble Seymour with physical humor that was not too over-the-top. Cruz’s musical numbers, especially
those with his plant, Audrey II, resonated with the audience and pulled sympathy from the audience for the luckless flower apprentice.Cruz’s Seymour effectively portrayed the dark humor of the play, a cross between a light-hearted success story with a horror angle.

In the show’s opener, several of the actors’ microphones would stop working during some of the musical numbers – leading to sighs of frustration from the audience. Despite the strong dancing and singing from the cast, the microphone time outs disconnected the audience from the emotion of the scenes.

The play’s true nature came out through Audrey II, the man-eating plant from outer space, for whom Seymour had cared. Audrey II, or “Twoie,” was an example of the show’s spectacular special effects. Along with authentic real-world set designs, Audrey II’s animate qualities from John Nico allowed the viewer to get lost in the scene and feel the depth of the play’s more cynical emotions. The voice of Audrey II, provided by Marquise Harris, is remarkable in furthering the musical’s dark humor. There were, however, some performances that never seemed to reach their full potential. Matthew Avant, who played Odin – the abusive, motorcycle riding dentist boyfriend of Audrey – gave a potential for narcissism.

His physical presence and vocal performance embodied the pain-inflicting madman his character demanded when interacting with Audrey and Seymour, but his laughing-gas scene seemed to push the envelope a bit too far, leaving the audience to only a few chuckles.

The musical performances brought life to the stage with nearly every number. One of the most notable came from Rivera’s Audrey, singing “Somewhere That’s Green.” The song details Audrey’s desire to have a quiet life with the caring Seymour. Rivera left the audience with a sense of sorrow and empathy for Audrey, hoping things would work out for the co-workers. Most musical numbers were supported by the Urchins, a narrating chorus played by Amora Laucella, Darria Credle, and Gabrielle Plaia. They brought a light-hearted nature to the show, while contributing a darker tone at other moments.  In addition to their performance, their costumes were the best of the show, alternating between ragged clothes and glamorous dresses mimicking the look of ’60’s woman bands.

Despite the show’s somewhat sad ending, it provided many laughs throughout. The musical’s most humorous character came from Justin Phillips’ performance as Mr. Mushnik. Phillips portrays Mushnik as a business oriented man who takes the flaws of his flower shop out on his employees.
Phillips switched from Mushnik as a frustrated failing businessman to a loving friend when he suspects Seymour of leaving the shop at the height of his fame.