“Feed me, Seymour!”
Katrinah Carol Lewis, Jessi Johnson, and Ashlee Arden Heyward. Photo credit Robyn O’Neill.
Alan Menken has got to be one of my all-time favorite composers. And, I admit, I have been known to hold many a living room concert for friends and family belting out “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Suddenly Seymour,” shout out to the streaming devices and YouTube videos that help turn my television into a karaoke machine.
So, needless to say, I have been jazzed about seeing this show since Swift Creek Mill’s season was announced. And they did not disappoint.
WHAT IT IS
Originally a Roger Corman dark comedy film from 1960, the musical version–by writer Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken–premiered in 1982 off-Broadway.
And in 1986, the film adaptation, starring Rick Moranis, Steve Martin, and Ellen Greene, who played Audrey on Broadway, brought this wacky story to the masses.
This is a story about a little guy named Seymour, a plant-loving nerd who harbors a secret crush for his troubled co-worker and blonde bombshell, Audrey.
When the florist where they work is in danger of going under, Audrey insists that Seymour show their boss, the cantankerous Mr. Mushnik, a very unusual plant that he acquired from a Chinese florist during a total eclipse of the sun.
The plant, which Seymour has dubbed Audrey Two, starts to bring in customers almost immediately.
But Seymour soon learns that this odd plant can only sustain off human blood. And desperate to keep his success going, Seymour lets the plant feed off of him, until Audrey Two manipulates him into becoming an accomplice to murder.
WHERE IT IS
Little Shop of Horrors is playing at Swift Creek Mill, located in Colonial Heights right off of Route 1 (17401 Jefferson Davis Highway, South Chesterfield).
WHO’S BEHIND IT
This production is directed by the Mill’s in-house director Tom Width. And Width has dazzled his audiences once again with excellent casting and this time, inspired puppetry design by Martin P. Robinson.
With an impressive Audrey Two–or several actually, as the plant continues to grow in size throughout the acts, Width has cast Durron Tyre as its voice. Tyre’s performance is definitely the highlight of this show. His portrayal of the blood-thirsty plant is equally obnoxious (“FEEEEED ME”), funny, and scary. Partnering with Benjamin West, who expertly manipulates Audrey Two, Tyre brings incredible energy to this production.
Katrinah Carol Lewis, Jessi Johnson, and Ashlee Arden Heyward star as a street “doo wop” trio and serve as a sort of Greek chorus throughout, moving along the action and narrating scenes. Their precise vocals, at times, outshine those of the main cast.
Ian Page as Seymour is unassuming as the timid lead, but I would have liked a little more push from him, especially during his performance of “Suddenly Seymour.””Suddenly Seymour” is supposed to be a big, booming, love song, a realization for the lead characters, Seymour and Audrey. And unfortunately this time it just didn’t make me feel anything, as, I feel, it was directed and choreographed to be more raunchy than sweet.
The amazingly diverse Audra Honaker, plays Audrey. Fully embracing Audrey’s sweet naïveté, her performance of “Somewhere That’s Green” is equally heartbreaking and hopeful. And I think she absolutely nails Audrey’s exaggerated, nasal, “Jersey” accent.
As Orin, Audrey’s abusive boyfriend who is also a sadistic dentist, Adam Mincks is a master of physical comedy, and apparently evil cackling. His performance is just right amount of un-hinged. Meanwhile, John Hagadorn (Mr. Mushnik) fusses and peers over his glasses at his co-stars.
Maura Lynch Cravey has constructed some gorgeous and flattering dresses for Audrey. And that edgy dentist jacket customized for Orin is to die for, heh, get it? And, crucially, Travis West lifts up this production with his impeccable musical direction.
WHEN IT IS
“Little Shop” runs through May 21st as part of Swift Creek Mill’s 50th anniversary season.
HOW MUCH IT COSTS
Tickets run from $38 for the show to roughly $55, depending on if you choose to partake in the buffet.
They do offer “rush tickets” too for $20. But these are only available at the door and may not be reserved. The Mill says that you can call prior to arrival though, to check availability.
Call the box office at 804.748.5203 to order over the phone.
OTHER THINGS TO NOTE
Swift Creek Mill is about half an hour’s drive from Richmond city center, so plan accordingly.
I recommend partaking in the buffet before the show if it’s in your budget. Friendly servers, warm comfort food, fancy tablecloths in a rustic setting, what’s not to like?
Oh, and people rave about the pickled watermelon, give it a shot, see what you think.
IF YOU DON’T GO DO THIS, YOU WILL…
Regret it. Plain and simple.
We’re talkin’ amazing music, a demented dentist, a giant murderous plant, special effects—that make their way all the way into the audience, and the list goes on.