By Zach Steinberg
November 3, 2017
New York University’s Tisch New Theatre produced a hilarious horror romp with Alan Menken’s “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Tisch New Theater’s production of the Alan Menken genre bending musical is an ambitious, good time at the theater and it runs through the weekend at the SoHo Playhouse.
For those who have never heard of Little Shop of Horrors, it’s about a pushover nice-guy named Seymor (Daniel Youngelman), who works in a flower shop with his greedy boss, Mr. Mushnik (Patrick Martini), while secretly crushing on his sweet blonde co-worker, Audrey (Julesy Flavelle). With that setup, floral musical comedy ensues. Oh, and I almost forgot: there’s a talking plant from outer space called Audrey II with equal tastes for R&B and human blood.
Sounds over the top? That’s the fun of it.
The most impressive part about TNT’s Little Shop of Horrors is that it is entirely NYU student produced. Little Shop is a true spectacle with a large cast, iconic Menken musical numbers, and a giant puppet. When this production works, it really works. The entire cast from across NYU schools is super talented with a few standouts.
Daniel Youngelman makes Seymore’s transition from “meek-nerd” to “murderous meek-nerd” equal parts believable, funny, and tragic, especially shining in the intense second act. I know this may come as a shock considering he’s a senior in Steinhardt Vocal Performance, but Youngelman can definitely sing. So can the whole cast! Julesy Flavelle plays Audrey with appropriate timid sweetness. Her big number “Somewhere That’s Green” and her shared ballad with Youngelman “Suddenly, Seymore” are the two best moments of production.
Patrick Martini and Ray Fanara are both hysterical as Mr. Mushnik and Orin Scrivello respectively. Fanara particularly chews his flashy role as the leather-clad, nitro-addicted dentist/sadist. He deservedly earns a few of the production’s biggest laughs, even if some of his character’s domestic abuse content plays a little off for comedy in 2017. The rest of the ensemble fills out nicely, with particular props thrown towards Chloe Troast, whose physicality and sharp comic timing stole every scene she made an appearance in.
Finally, we need to address the giant man eating plant in the room. Honestly, the evolution of Audrey II and it’s puppeteering took a moment for my brain to settle into, but by the end of the first act, I totally bought into the reality. This is in no small part thanks to RJ Christian who voices the plant with a deep soulful tenor that is deliciously smooth and terrifying all at once. By the time Audrey II is fully grown and dueting with Seymore about blood lust, you’ll be dancing in your seat.
Considering the ambition of the production, it’s understandable that it lacks technical polish in places. There were a some sound hiccups throughout, a few botched notes here and there, and given the small space, actors would occasionally bump into each other at moments of high clutter. But these nitpicks are easily forgivable and never distracting. At its core, Little Shop of Horrors is a riff on campy B-list science fiction, so even when the production got janky, it was always charming.
Overall, TNT’s Little Shop of Horror’s is a well-produced, silly, horror romp with a good heart and reliably catchy Menken tunes sung by some impressive voices. Go this weekend, check it out, and support the NYU community. Good luck getting “Little shop, little shop of horrors ” out of your head. Trust me, it’ll be in there until the day sentient plants take over the Earth.