Providence Players of Fairfax presents the cult classic musical Little Shop of Horrors, with Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Music by Alan Menken. Named a “bucket list” item by Director Chip Gertzog, and with enthusiastic Musical Direction by Madalaine Vander-Linden, this production of Little Shop is a true labor of love. Full of fresh, passionate performances, it’s clear that everyone involved is having a blast, a thrill that radiates off the stage and through the audience!
Set Designers Chip Gertzog and John Coscia bring Skid Row to the stage, with construction led by Chip and Jimmy Gertzog. A live orchestra (the “Skid Row Gutter Band”) is tucked into the back corner, next to the heavily graffitied delivery entrance to Mushnik’s Skid Row Florists. Battered signs with statements like,”Danger!” and “No Trespassing!” surround the dreary shop, with the entrance sliding away to show a row of truly pitiful bouquets. It’s a bleak atmosphere, upheld by opening number “Skid Row (Downtown),” sung with anger and frustration by the hopeless public.
Technical Director Jimmy Gertzog’s lighting bursts and fades with the tempo of the music, and surges blood red (appropriately) with the number, “Feed Me.” Sound Designers David Sher and Jimmy Gertzog include effects like motorcycle engines and drilling instruments. The actors are all mic’d, making it easy to hear them over the live music. Costume Designers Robbie Snow and Susan Kaplan bring out the 1960’s setting with pleated skirts, feather boas, bowler shoes, and big hair.
Du-wop group Crystal (Becca Harney) Chiffon (Shanice Jones) and Ronnette (Audrey Suarez) herald in the miserable world of Skid Row, where the shy, nerdy Seymour Krelborn (Matt Williams) toils his days away in Mr. Mushnik’s (Mike Khatcheressian) failing flower shop alongside his sweet co-worker Audrey (Toby Nelson). Business begins to boom when Seymour gets his hands on a “strange and interesting” flytrap, which he names “Audrey II.” Williams lends Seymour a geeky voice and lisp, which makes his strong voice that much more of a surprise when he sings, “Grow for Me,” to his dying plant. To his horror, Seymour discovers that his beloved needs more than ‘Miracle Grow’ to thrive. Meanwhile, poor Audrey has troubles of her own, as she is entangled in an abusive relationship with sadist dentist Orin Scrivello (Glen Bartram). Bartram’s number “Dentist” is an entertaining one, with typical 60’s dance moves supplied by Choreographer Liz Mykietyn. Will Seymour be able to control his plant’s appetite?
Little Shop is full of wonderful performances, especially the leading roles. Toby Nelson is stellar Audrey – a charming, though victimized woman who hides her sadness beneath an upbeat, plucky facade. Her solo, “Somewhere That’s Green” is wistful and sweet, tinged with a bit of melancholy gloom that grips the audience. Matt Williams has the awkward, well-meaning Seymour down pat, as he twiddles his fingers nervously and gazes down at the floor. Mike Khatcheressian is grumpily perfect as Mr. Mushnick.
However, the real star of the show is Audrey II, a prop so massive that it is manipulated in tandem by Jimmy Gertzog, Mike Khatcheressian, and Ari Post. Tom Mirenda provides the intimidating voice of Audrey II, which was designed by Martin P. Robinson. The plump lips, thorny leaves, and gnarly teeth make the oversized prop a real sight to see! At Audrey II’s most powerful, a trio of actors are sheathed head-to-toe in stretchy material and move about the plant’s base as oversized vines, weaving their limbs around the plant’s victims. The effect is creative, artistic, and a bit creepy!
If, like me, you’ve only ever experienced the musical movie version of Little Shop of Horrors, then be prepared for the shock of an entirely different and stunning ending!
For a great night of entertainment, I highly recommend Providence Players of Fairfax’s Little Shop of Horrors.
Running Time: Two hours, including one-15-minute intermission.
Little Shop of Horrors plays through October 19, 2013 at Providence Players at The James Lee Community Center Theater – 2855 Annandale Road, in Falls Church, VA. For tickets, call (703) 425-6782, or purchase them online.
Toby Nelson on Playing Audrey in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at Providence Players of Fairfax by Julia L. Exline.