By Marshall Branham
As the end of September arrives and October comes quickly, I’m sure that many of you are starting to get into the spirit of Halloween, which includes watching many scary movies from several years ago. We’ve all witnessed the incredibly cheesy and melodramatic “B Movies” based on supposedly spooky creatures. While Little Shop of Horrors is based on these flicks from the yesteryears, it far surpasses them in tone, comedy, and of course, music. Centre Stage’s production greatly captures the essence of these three key factors. Director Kevin Treu created a unique experience that had the audience engaged and laughing at the horrors that unfolded.
The story follows Seymour Krelborn, played by Chris Cashon, a young botanical genius. He continually pursues the affections of his coworker Audrey, played by Mary Evan Giles, while working under his shrewd boss and father figure Mr. Mushnik, played by Paul Noga. Fortune changes for them as a mysterious plant seems to land right into the hands of Seymour, who lovingly calls it Audrey II, played by Javy Pagan. What follows is a comedically dark tale of the costs of success, with several roots based on the pagan stories of deals with the devil as described in the director’s notes.
Each member of this talented cast had a lot to offer. Cashon’s Seymour is extremely likable, which had people rooting for him even as things became worse. Giles as Audrey was wonderful, providing a very sweet character with a voice and heart of gold. Noga as Mushnik was greatly entertaining as every scene featuring him had high energy and interaction with others. Joshua Thomason as the menacing dentist Orin Scrivello was perfect, as his hammy energy brought a smile to every audience member despite how horrible he was, as was the several side characters he would switch between during the show. The trio of street urchans that act as the “Greek chorus” (Angelina Chisholm, Antionette Hall, Wesley Hudson) had great energy with both the audience members and the other characters, and amazing singing voices that should not go unnoticed. Audrey II as played by Pagan was an astounding take on the monstrous plant, and the connections to the deals with the devil stories was evident in the physicality. The powerful voice and commanding presence left everyone in awe whenever Pagan talked in a scene.
The set design was wonderfully thought out, the transitions being mostly done with a few removable pieces and projections that allowed for fluidity and time progression to be shown. The lighting design was also interesting, as the mood could easily be set to reflect the inner thoughts of the characters or the external control of Audrey II spreading. Costume Designer Celia Blitzer did a stellar job with every character, with special regards for the many outfits of Audrey II that stood out.
Overall, this show is a must see for the upcoming horror season. The work and detail from cast, crew, and director is evident in every moment of the performance. Do yourself a favor and take a trip down to Skid Row to watch Little Shop of Horrors at Centre Stage, you won’t regret it.