By Albert H. Fulcher | Editor
Never disparage the quality entertainment of what a small theater company can achieve. New Village Arts’ production of the cult classic “Little Shop of Horrors” is an example of excellence in revamping a campy, horror production. Director AJ Knox’s vision transported the audience into a B movie lover’s paradise, and it was a wonderful crazy ride.
With a stellar troupe willing to take a risk at genderbending roles and unprecedented unexpected twists, this is by far one of the campiest versions that filled the theatre with belly laughs and awe.
The “Skid Rowettes,” Crystal (Natasha Baenisch), Chiffon (Patricia Jewel) and Ronnie (Chris Bona) are often overlooked, but they are an integral part of the play and have more time on stage than any other performers. In their multiplicity, they carried the show with their own numbers, standing in as abstract characters and in this case, even playing a role in the plant from outer space Audrey II. Bona held nothing back, being the only male in the normally three-woman trio. He kept up with the sultry motions, the higher octaves and the campy nature of these musical narrators. Their harmony was as smooth as their moves and as a team they stood out as front runners rather than backup singers.
Sittichai Chaiyahat (Seymour) and Cashae Monya (Audrey) were a perfectional pairing. There was a visible connection between the two and together and individually they both captured the comedic spirit that this show is all about. “Suddenly Seymour” was as strong and tender as it should be. Monya’s “Somewhere That’s Green” was simply lovely in her delivery. Working together, forgive the pun, they fed off each other, which strengthened the bond in their performances.
(Off the beaten path.) For me, they also made a strong statement as an interracial couple, and for Audrey, that women of color are the highest population subjected to domestic violence.
It was a pure satisfaction watching Ms. Mushnik (Melissa Fernandes). She brought some new life into this production solely by being a woman. This twisted the storyline enough that carried this play in a new direction. To top it off, she can sing, move and has impeccable comedic timing.
Our favorite dentist for dinner Orin Scrivello (Philip David Black) was just over the top. He was truly the man you loved to hate, and he played it through on maximum overdrive.
We have to talk about Audrey II. I’ve seen the movie and more productions of “Little Shop” that I can count, but I have never seen such a bold and beautiful move in bringing Audrey II (Eboni Muse) to life. Muse’s powerful voice and the entire set up of the fully-grown Audrey II plant was magnificent. It was marvelous having a person and not a puppet and with the help of the Skid Rowettes, Audrey II grew into a spectacular and beautiful set for this character. And Muse transformed this sci-fi creature into a living, breathing, singing creature larger than life.
This play has everything for a mind-blowing production. Amazing sets, powerhouse singing, funny to the bone and some extremely curious oddities thrown in made for an excellent day at the theater. Whether you are a fan of “Little Shop of Horrors” or not, this is one production you’ll be sorry you missed.
— Albert Fulcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.