Feed Me! Says The Bloodthirsty Plant
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
The Capitol Theatre was packed full on opening night of Little Shop of Horrors. The crowd was all ages, with a strong showing of 20 and 30-somethings. Cheering began as soon as the show started – enthusiastic applause and loud woots. This audience knows the show – they even recited sentences along with actors, and there were comments during the songs. Little Shop of Horrors attracts an adoring cult audience. They were out in full-force and absolutely enjoying themselves.
Nerdy flower shop employee Seymour is in love with his co-worker Audrey. The shop, as well as its owner, Mr. Mushnik, is in financial trouble, with no customers coming in. It’s located in a run-down Skid Row neighbourhood in New York City. Seymour discovers an unusual plant he names Audrey II, due to his infatuation with Audrey. But alas, Audrey thinks her current boyfriend, a cruel dentist, is the best she deserves.
Much to Seymour’s concern and disgust, the dentist-boyfriend hits Audrey. But then things change when Seymour discovers the amazing plant eats human flesh and blood. Keeping that information secret, Seymour convinces Mr. Mushnik to use the interesting and fast-growing plant to attract new customers to the previously struggling shop. After cutting his fingers to feed the bloodthirsty plant, Seymour is forced to new depths to satiate the meat-eater. The plant’s carnivorous appetite grows, as does the plant, creating bigger problems.
Amir Haidar is perfect as the hapless Seymour, easily handling the role of the nerd. Haidar will be remembered for his comedic role as the groom in last year’s Stag and Doe. Audrey is played by Tahirih Vejdani, who has performed at the Stratford Festival. Her skills and experience are evident: she not only sings flawlessly, she speaks with just the right amount of New York accent.
Mr. Mushnik (Tyler Murree) and Orin the Dentist (Michael De Rose) are both excellent, as are the trio of singers (Sierra Holder, Taylor Lovelace, and Michelle Yu) who provide a wonderful diversion throughout the story, with their hybrid of Motown and doo-wop.
Special shout out to Chris Tsujiuchi, the voice of Audrey II (the plant), and Joel Cumber, the puppeteer. They are perfectly synchronized, and the plant sounds and looks amazing.
Hats off to the entire creative team and crew who brought this spectacle to reality, with special mention to Brandon Klieman for the set design. He has created a huge building on skid row, where it could be moved to open the door to the flower shop, or the dentist office. Music Director Jeff Newberry had to break in a borrowed keyboard on opening night, after an earlier power outage shut down the one he was supposed to use, but he rose to the occasion. Choreographer Genny Sermonia created just the right moves for the doo-wop singers, and kudos to Capitol Artistic Director Rob Kempson who also directed this show.
There is long history to Little Shop of Horrors: the original movie was made in 1960, then 22 years went by before it was performed live off-off-Broadway in 1982. A new movie was made in 1986 with a star-studded cast including Rick Moranis, Steve Martin and Jim Belushi. By 2003, it was a hit on Broadway. The musical pokes fun at the musical theatre genre, making a mockery of the concept. Nevertheless, there are some beautiful songs in this show. A particular favourite is “Suddenly, Seymour”, sung beautifully by Haidar and Vejdani.
Go see Little Shop of Horrors. If you don’t like horror movies, this is more comedy than horror, and offers a quirky little story with some very good music. The Capitol has done it right.
Little Shop of Horrors continues at the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope until September 3, 2023. Tickets are available at the box office by calling 905-885-1071 or visiting https://capitoltheatre.com/
Photo: The plant with the taste for human blood (Puppeteer Joel Cumber and Voice Chris Tsujiuchi) and Seymour (Amir Haidar). Photo by Sam Moffatt.
Little Shop of Horrors
Book and lyrics by Howard Ashman
Music by Alan Menken
Directed by Rob Kempson
Musical Direction by Jeff Newberry
Choreography by Genny Sermonia
Performed by Joel Cumber, Michael De Rose, Amir Haidar, Sierra Holder, Taylor Lovelace, Tyler Murree, Chris Tsujiuchi, Tahirih Vejdani, Michille Yu.
The Capitol Theatre, Port Hope
August 11 to September 3, 2023
Reviewed by Mary Alderson