Well known for directing campy shows for his own theatrical company, Egads!, Steven Eubank built a history of fun musical shows and now completes his newest assignment, “Little Shop of Horrors” at the Jewish Community Center of Kansas City in the White Theatre.
Eubank’s “Little Shop of Horrors” that opened Saturday, Nov. 7 at The J stays true to the story line of a blood-thirsty plant from outer space that fancies human blood and flesh over plant food, water, and fertilizer. The original version, a movie, Little Shop of Horrors, black and white movie (with an almost unknown Jack Nicholson) lived for years as a cult classic, but otherwise went forgotten.
Adapted for theater and adding music and lyrics Howard Ashman and Alan Menken created a smart, sassy show that debuted way off Broadway and slowly made it way to Broadway success and an eventual new movie, all of the same name, Little Shop of Horrors. According to Wikipedia, “Little Shop of Horrors” ran for about 375 performances on Broadway after a long and successful trek toward the Great White Way. “(‘Little Shop of Horrors’) premiered Off-Off-Broadway at the Workshop of the Players’ Art in May 1982, then transferred Off-Broadway to the Orpheum Theatre in July 1982, where it played for five years. It was considered a “Revival” for the purposes of the Tony nominations in 2004.”
“Little Shop of Horrors” chews up the characters as the blood-thirsty alien plant form thrives as it devours all those who come to close for comfort. Witty, sharp, campy funny, “Little Shop of Horrors” serves up a heaping feast of fun, leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. For The J, all of the Skid Row characters and their sad situations set the tone for the scary, fun musical. The show, complete with the most maniacal dentist ever conceived, is lively fun, and entertaining.
Audrey II, the plant, devours humans as it grows to maturity and, in its own way, “bites the hand that feeds it.” “Little Shop of Horrors” provides music, camp, laughs to a varied audience for opening night. The show guarantees packed houses as it continues to draw interest and new audiences.
The show opens with a total eclipse of the sun, where, afterwards, a suspicious, never-been-seen-before plant catches the eye of Seymour who buys it, names it, and nurtures it. As the plant seems to continue to decline with traditional food and water methods, Seymour discovers that a drop of human blood resurrects the dying alien life form. As the plant grown, the demand for blood increases. Eventually, the plant becomes a “man-eating-alien” and thrives on human lives.
Count on Steven Eubank to delve into such a project with both feet. “Little Shop of Horrors” fits nicely into the genre on which he built his resume. He’s previously produced such shows as “Rocky Horror,” “Spamalot,” “Zombie Prom,” “Carrie,” and “Shrek” to name a few. “Little Shop of Horrors” fits nicely in the mix. His understanding of the comedy of the piece flows through the actors and the characters created.
Dennis Maddux, as the grumpy Mr. Mushnik could not find a better piece to display his acting. He crafted a cranky yet likeable store owner, before his demise at the feeding time of Audrey II. Graham Fairleigh dons a leather jacket and spoofs Elvis as the dentist, Orin, who possesses a penchant for causing as much pain as he can in patients. And, those are the supporting characters. Leads Drew Szczesny and Katie Bartow absolutely sparkle as Seymour and Audrey. Szczesny nails, hard, the ne’r do well Seymour who is hopelessly in love with Audrey. At the same time, Bartow belts out Audrey’s songs with authority. Together they are stunning to watch and laugh with as the show unfolds. Equally important to the show are two unseen actors, De’Markcus Howell and Michael Golliher who voice and puppet Audrey II. Even though never seen, their input brings Audrey II to life.
Opening night saw some technical problems with the sound system, but such glitches certainly would be changed before the opening weekend ended. Other than that, the show clipped along at a fast pace and kept the audience involved. The show runs about two hours with intermission, relatively short for a musical. But, even short, it delivers a fun evening of entertainment.
The cast is: Kristen May Altoro as Chiffon, Jessica Alcorn as Crystal, Rasheedat Badejo as Ronette, Dennis Maddux as Mr. Mushnik, Katie Bartow as Audrey , Drew Szczesny as Seymour, Graham Fairleigh as Orin and multiple other characters, De’Markcus Howell as the voice of Audrey II, Michael Golliher as Audrey II’s puppeteer . The production team, led by Steven Eubank, includes: Jessica Franz, assistant director; Kevin Bogan, musical director; Tiffany Powell, choreographer; April Lynn Kobetz, production stage manager; Catherine Lewis, assistant stage manager; Jayson Chandley, scenic and lighting design; Julia Ras, costume designer; Bill Christie, properties management; Alex Davilla, sound design; Gregory Chafin, technical director; AtoZ Theatrical, scenic fabrication assistance; Tyler Schyvinck, production assistant; Trenton Smith, production assistant; Ed Alono, RC prop construction; Theatrical Magic, RC Prop construction. The orchestra is Kevin Bogan, piano; Matt Fischer, piano; Nick Yoder, guitar; Kevin Payton, bass.
“Little Shop of Horrors” continues at The J through Nov. 22. Tickets can be purchased on the phone at 913-327-8054 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or The J website.