AMERICAN FORK — Halloween is in the air, and with it comes an abundance of spooky shows, like Timpanogos Community Theater’s production of Little Shop of Horrors.
Based on the 1960 Roger Corman film, Little Shop of Horrors is a horror/comedy/rock musical with music by Alan Menken and lyrics and book by Howard Ashman. The story follows a shy, insecure florist who finds unexpected fame in raising a bloodthirsty plant that feeds on humans. This production, under the direction of Chip Brown, is a great adaptation of the popular film.
The script of Little Shop of Horrors specifically calls for black actors to play the roles of the street urchins, and I was disappointed to see that this specification was not honored in this production. Recently in the theatre world, there has been a movement to bring more diversity to the stage in terms of race, and to provide more opportunities to previously underrepresented minority groups. It would be nice to see Utah theatre companies at the forefront of this movement and leading the way. That is not to say that the actresses playing the street urchins were not talented. They were. But this is a production where it is important to honor the specifications of the script in terms of race.
The urchins Crystal, Ronette, and Chiffon are played by Mallori Patton, Rachel Carr, and Gabi Cuascut, respectively. I was impressed by the vocals of these ladies, particularly Patton and Carr. The three characters constantly sing in tight harmonies, and I applaud Brown (who also functioned as the music director) for his work with these ladies in perfecting their harmonies. Cuascut as Chiffon sometimes missed her harmonies, and she could use some improvement in her diction. It was often difficult to understand her words while she was speaking or singing a solo. This issue can be fixed with a little extra help from the music director. The urchins were otherwise very strong, and did an excellent job with telling the story through song.
Travis Wright plays the hapless floral shop worker Seymour Krelborn. Wright has a nice voice and did well with portraying Seymour’s awkward, insecure nature, although I did notice a missed verse during “Grow For Me” and a few dropped or fumbled lines throughout the show. I can attribute this to opening night jitters, and this issue will likely work itself out as the show continues and Wright grows more comfortable with his character. Where his character is supposed to be bumbling and awkward, the forgotten verse and fumbled lines actually worked to his advantage and added depth to Seymour. Wright is, overall, charming and convincing as the awkward florist.
Seymour’s love interest is Audrey, played by Tia Trimble. Trimble has lovely vocals, but her acting is what really shines. She has excellent physicality and facial expressions throughout the show, expertly conveying what her character is feeling inside from her facial expressions alone. Trimble also has the New York accent mastered, and it is completely believable that she is a New York native.
Clayton Guymon plays the creepily, hilariously sadistic dentist, and Audrey’s evil boyfriend, Orin Scrivello. Guymon expertly toes the line between being funny and creepy and channels his inner John Stamos when he sings. I absolutely loved the adverse reactions of the street urchins upon their first encounter with this scumbag of a character (after hearing Audrey’s horror stories about how Orin treats her). Equally as hilarious was Trevor Williams as Mr. Mushnik, particularly during his song “Mushnik and Son,” during which he attempts to convince Seymour to become his adopted son. This was perhaps one of the funniest songs in the show, a nice contrast to the overall darker nature of the show.
Particularly impressive were the puppets for all stages of Audrey 2, designed by Sawyer Griffin. Audrey 2 grows from a small bud, to a medium-sized plant, to a full-blown monster. The puppets had great animation and excellent timing with the music, thanks to puppeteer Rich Higinbotham. Ambrocio Mireles is the perfect voice for the evil plant. His voice is booming and sultry, while also being terrifyingly threatening. However, there were times when his microphone was a bit too loud, and his voice overpowered the other actors singing with him onstage. This should be a simple fix for sound designer Jason Young, with a slight adjustment to the volume of his microphone. There were otherwise little to no sound issues throughout the show. The actors sounded crystal clear at all times, and I did not notice any major microphone issues. I commend Young for his excellent work with the sound design for this production.
I appreciated the intricate set design by Griffin. The set is detailed and multi-layered, which made for interesting levels throughout the show. The two-story set was most often utilized by the street urchins, who function as the narrators of the show. I also loved the costume design by Savannah Sanborn, particularly the costumes of the street urchins. The costumes were detailed and time-period appropriate, and I loved the matching green dresses and accessories that the urchins wore for the closing number.
Overall, this production is a great option for fans of Little Shop of Horrors, and a great way to get into the spirit of Halloween. Due to some darker themes such as abuse and murder, I would not recommend this show for young children. But otherwise, Little Shop of Horrors makes for a fun, spooky night out.