For a truly campy treat, head to the Porthouse Theater in Cuyahoga Falls to see the famously fun sci-fi comedy musical Little Shop of Horrors.
The musical, which opens Porthouse Theatre’s 54th season, has a tight cast of nine, including students from Kent State University, recent graduates and other professionals. It’s a colorful celebration of horror musical, early rock, doo-wop and Motown, based on the 1960 film directed by Roger Corman and Charles Griffith.
Director Terri Kent hits just the right tone with her cast, led by Morgan Mills as the mistily loveable Seymour. He works in a seedy flower shop on Skid Row, where he pursues his hobby of discovering exotic plants.
All of the relationships in this story are cartoonish, including those between boss Mr. Mushnik (Timothy Culver) and his formerly run-down employee Seymour. Character actor Culver takes the “Mushnik & Son” tune to vaudevillian heights when he and Mills perform a dance nod to “Fiddler on the Roof,” complete with a waving handkerchief.
That humor comes thanks to choreographer Martin Cespedes, who also brings classic girl band moves to the show’s three villains: Chiffon (Jocelyn Trimmer), Crystal (Israeljah Khi-Reign), and Ronette (Hannah Hall). He set this trio in the style of The Shirelles and The Supremes.
The Urchin actresses, all KSU students, serve as the ever-present Greek chorus as they advance the story, singing fantastic harmonies as they go.
In this comedy-horror-musical, Seymour buys a Venus flytrap-type plant from a Chinese man for $1.95. He soon discovers that the plant, which he names Audrey II after his human crush, is carnivorous and only thrives on human blood.
Audrey II brings color, excitement and fame to Seymour. And as the plant grows to monstrous proportions, Seymour becomes increasingly desperate to sate her insatiable appetite.
Robert Miller and Brian Chandler are the magicians behind the Audrey II puppet. Miller is the puppeteer who manipulates Audrey II’s huge mouth with his pointed teeth. Bass Chandler, who teaches drama at the University of Akron, is thrilled when he finally expresses Audrey II’s bloodlust in “Git It.”
Stoffel’s Audrey is sadder than giddy, which helps us better identify with this sexy girl who is being abused by her boyfriend, Orin. She and Mills bring the house down in their love duet “Suddenly Seymour,” where Stoffel lets out her big belt.
As Orin, KSU graduate Michael Glavan creates one of the most over-the-top sadistic dentists I’ve seen to date, and this was the fifth production I’ve seen of Little Shop.
Glavan also brings a more perverse twist to Orin’s sadism than I’ve seen before, making it all the more humorous. And costume designer Russell has come up with an ingenious headgear for the nitrous oxide-loving dentist: a clear, round helmet through which we can see his full face in the hilarious death scene “Now (It’s Just the Gas)”.
Little Shop is a fun and sizzling start to a summer in Porthouse, where guests can gather ahead of the show for this run, as well as upcoming productions of Godspell July 8-23 and West Side Story in July beautiful grounds can picnic 20th to 14th August.
Arts and restaurant writer Kerry Clawson can be reached at 330-996-3527 or [email protected]
Musical: “Little Shop of Horrors”
Where: Porthouse Theater, 3143 O’Neil Road, Cuyahoga Falls, at the Blossom Music Center
When: 8pm Tuesday to Saturday, 2pm Sunday until July 2nd
On stage: Morgan Mills, Abby Stoffel, Timothy Culver, Michael Glavan, Jocelyn Trimmer, Israeljah “Aylah” Khi-Reign, Hannah Hall, Jocelyn Trimmer, Brian Chandler, Robert Miller, Devin Pfeiffer, Tyrell Reggins, AT Sanders
Backstage: Howard Ashman, book and lyrics; Alan Menken, music; Terri Kent, Director; Martin Cespedes choreographer; Jennifer Korecki, music director; Jaemin Park, lighting designer; Sarah Russell, costume designer; Devin Gallo, technical director; Ben Needham, set designer; Annabell Mallard, sound designer; Tom Humes, head of production phase; Dani Vanasse, Props Manager
Information: 330-672-3884 or at www.porthousetheatre.com