“Little Shop of Horrors” Slays Audiences

Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy finds mysterious plant from outer space and feeds it humans in order to achieve success and keep girl. While this may not sound like the typical love story, it is what happens downtown in the University’s spring musical “Little Shop of Horrors,” which opened on March 5 in Lauren K. Woods Theatre.

The setting of “Little Shop” takes place in a flower shop on Skid Row, a rundown street lost in the ever-growing urban city in the 60’s.  The owner of the flower shop, Mr. Mushnik played by Nick Zaccario, is on the verge of closing due to no business on Skid Row. However, Mushnik’s “ward,” Seymour, played by junior Brandon Wiener, shows him the strange and unusual “Audrey II” he finds at an exotic plant shop in another part of town.

At first, the plant is withered and dying until Seymour cuts his finger and sees that the plant needs human blood to survive, and gives it enough to flourish.  Soon, “Audrey II” generates an astronomical amount of local and even national success for the shop until Seymour finds out that the plant is actually a creature from outer space and has another craving: world domination.

What most people don’t know about “Little Shop of Horrors” is that it takes the same journey as Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” and John Water’s “Hairspray.” All three of these comedies were originally movies that were turned into musicals. Once all of these cult classics made it big on the great white way, their musical adaptations were then again recaptured on the silver screen.  “Little Shop” in particular was originally created as a comedy in 1960 before it was revamped into an Off -Broadway musical in 1982.

The University’s adaption of “Little Shop of Horrors” was well done and has been one of the best department productions I have seen here in my four years at Monmouth. One of the aspects that impressed me the most was the set design, which was built by the student crew along with the help of professionals and supplies from Eagle Theatre. 

Personally, I had never seen the stage that full before, but it worked to give that crowded city look, bringing visitors more into the story as the performance went on. Along with the set design and cast, I appreciated that the audience was always engaged from the pre-performance “turn off your cell phones” speech by the winos, to the note Mr. Mushnik belted out during “Ya Never Know”, and the unexpected yet entertaining dance number during “Mushnik and Son.” The show flowed pleasantly with good comedic timing and pace.

It was easy to see the amount of chemistry on stage and all the actors played off each other well. Wiener encapsulated the hapless, awkward yet charming Seymour with his female cohort, senior Brooke McCarthy as Audrey.  McCarthy captured Audrey’s honest humor, outgoing attitude, and “city accent” presenting a delightful opposite to Wiener, which created a good balance between the duo.

Besides the two leads, every cast member held their own on stage whether it was a small role like Mrs. Luce, played by Zoe Bulitt, or a larger role such as Orion, played by Michael Rosas, Audrey’s sadist, pain-loving, dentist boyfriend who kept the audience roaring with laughter. A personal favorite of mine were the ladies playing the doo-wop trio Ronnette, Chiffon and Crystal, played by Jasmine Walker, Devon Henry, and Mahalia Jackson, who were essential to the plot movement of the play, and added a little flair of attitude to the performance.  And, of course, Nick Rossi as the sarcastic and menacing voice of “Audrey II” reminded me of Levi Stubbs, who played the plant in the movie adaption of the musical in 1986.

Overall, the show was well done with a cast that brought not only the show, but also the audience to life with the performances. If the theatre department keeps this rising talent going, I may just have to come back as an alumnus next year to see it.

“Little Shop Of Horrors” will close on Thursday, March 13 at 8 pm in Woods Theatre. Tickets are available at monmouth.edu/arts or by calling or visiting the MAC or Pollak box offices at 732-263-6889. Tickets for students are free.

PHOTOS TAKEN by Nicole Massabrook