STARR STREET MEDIA
By Derrick Gallegos
November 1, 2017
Tisch New Theatre's Little Shop of Horrors: a spooky, urban, modern reinvention of the original 2003 Broadway production with all the hilarity and rambunctiousness still intact. The show, set in SoHo Playhouse's 199-seat Off-Broadway theatre, is as charming as ever, its stellar cast working in a small space making every moment intimate and engaging under the direction of Casey Whyland. The actors take advantage of every crevice and corner, performing with the energy and talent one expects from a Broadway production. Despite spatial limitations, Casey's tight direction, along with her sharp and contained choreography, result in an exciting piece of theater that keeps the audience on their toes.
Little Shop of Horrors is a classic underdog story with a sinister twist. The show follows Seymour (Daniel Youngelman), an orphan under the care of Mr. Mushnik (Patrick Martini) as he uses a unique flytrap plant, Audrey II (RJ Christian), named after his unrequited-love-interest Audrey (Julesy Flavelle), to bolster his career as a flourishing botanist. But, there’s a catch: Audrey II needs flesh and blood to grow, specifically human flesh and blood.
Youngelman is a force to be reckoned with. With a voice like butter, every note he sings is clear, controlled, and perfectly punctuated. A quirky and delightfully awkward Seymour, one can't help but empathize with the orphaned boy, raised to work at Mushnik's Skid Row Florists, a wilting plant shop in the dark slums of a decaying city. But Youngelman’s Seymour would be nothing without his equally talented counterpart: Audrey.
Flavelle is emotionally devastating. As she sings of her dreams of a white-picket fence far from Skid Row in “Somewhere That's Green,” her soft, tender voice brings the room to a standstill. I found myself tearing up as she held back all the pain and regret, her eyes slowly watering, her voice breaking as deeply as her heart. This vulnerability meets a contrasted ferocity towards the end of "Suddenly Seymour", simultaneously showcasing Flevelle’s flexibility and empowering her character.
Audrey’s name child, Audrey II, enjoys perfect encapsulation through RJ Christian’s low, raspy vocal range, his intimidating performance as The Killer Fly-Trap conveying playfulness and ease, yet never wavering its threatening nature.
Ray Fanara plays a menacing and subtly sexual Orin Scrivello… DDS. His realistic, Nitrous Oxide induced cackling, coupled with sporadic, violent outbursts, make for an utterly unpredictable villain that leaves the audience ambivalent and cautious, his laughter just as hair-raising as it is contagious.
Martini's comedic timing is entirely on point. His lines flow out so naturally that his honest reactions to the show’s ridiculous premise result in side-splitting laughter. His show-stopping duet with Youngelman, “Mushnik and Son,” takes brilliant advantage of the space as both tango along the cluttered flower shop, the audience roaring at every line.
The rest of the cast was just as phenomenal: Alex Lugo, Tyaela Nieves, and Kaila Wooten (Doo-Wop Girls) provide pizzazz with their tight harmonies, sharp movement, and hilariously distinct personalities. Chloe Troast's (Ensemble) unbelievable character work as she switches from one persona to the next with ease earns her constant applause from the audience, and Andy Richardson's (Ensemble/Dance Captain) amazing cameos wrapping up the show’s tight staging.
The set and lighting sculpt the macabre comedic script into an immersive haunted house. The flower shop in the center revolves, creating several distinctive locations such as the transitory back alley, the dramatically varied dentist's office, and of course, Mushnik's iconic shop.
Tisch New Theatre's Little Shop of Horrors makes for a fantastic Halloween show, filled with incredible talent and gorgeous aesthetics, which left me both delighted and satiated. Get tickets before they sell out!