A fun, hip revival of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at the Player’s Club of Swarthmore

Rachel Hendrickson and Justin Caizzo are terrific in “Little Shop of Horrors” at Players Club of Swarthmore. Photo by Anne Marie Scalies

By Margie Royal

The first time I saw the musical ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ was at the Players Club of Swarthmore in 1991 and I loved it. The musical, featuring brilliant team work by Alan Menken, who wrote the music, and Howard Ashman, who wrote both the book and lyrics, pays homage to the old “creature feature” movies that were broadcast on Saturday afternoons in the 1960s-1970s. “Little Shop” takes the plot of a chiller feature about an alien plant that winds up in a seedy floral shop in Skid Row in the 1950s. The shop, owned by Mr. Mushnik, can barely keep its doors open. Seymour, who find the plant and brings it to the shop, has worked for Mushnik since he was a child. Mushnik’s other employee is Audrey, a sweet (but not too bright) girl who usually comes to work bruised and battered. That’s thanks to her sadistic, pain-loving boyfriend, Orin. The musical takes this plot and adds 1950s doo-wop, pop and swing to the score. Player’s Club director Eddie Donlevie adds a hip, urban edginess to this production which can be seen in the groups numbers sung by a group of street “urchins” who serve as a Greek chorus, both commenting on the action and helping move the plot along.
I’ve seen a lot of theater since 1991 and I wondered if I would have the same admiration for this musical I that had back then. The answer is “yes” — thanks in large part to Eddie Donlevie’s smart direction and casting. The voices in the show are outstanding. PCS’s Urchins and Company nail the three opening numbers, perfectly setting up Seymour’s character revealing solo, “Grow For Me.”
Justin Caiazzo plays Seymour perfectly, capturing the character’s nerdy charm. Rachel Hendrickson shines as sweet- natured Audrey. Her solo, “Somewhere That’s Green”, was lovely and touching. Caiazzo and Hendrickson’s duet “Call Back in The Morning” is fun, and their “Suddenly Seymour” is beautifully sung with the actors revealing their character’s heartfelt naivete. Dave Gregory plays Orin with sparkling malice and his numbers “Dentist!” and “Now (It’s Just the Gas)” are delivered with all his character’s diabolical bravado. Sean Murray nicely shows us the contradictions of Mr. Mushnik’s nature, and Abrham Bogale gives Audrey II a fine (but blood-thirsty!) voice.
As the Urchins Dana Corvino, Liz Iannacci, Neil Kirchsling, Kat Lemon and Rachel Medori deliver delicious renditions of the group numbers, all of which are excellently choreographed by Emily Aaron Fishman.
Eiree alien green and bloody red lighting are the fine work of lighting designer Bill Bloom. Becky Wright’s 1950 style costumes are nicely done. Derek Ross’ set design is clever, with urban decay on dispay and storefronts that swing open to reveal the dentist office and flower shop as needed.
Puppeteer Amelia SanFilippo nicely handles the Audrey II puppets designed by Pat Horan. Tristan Horan’s projections add a nice touch to the show, particularly during the intermission. Though unseen, performing at the back of the stage, Pat D’Amato does a great job leading the live 10-member orchestra.
Kudos to all for a fun, hip revival of “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Performances continue through Saturday, Feb. 24. Thursday performances are at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Also, audiences can meet the artists in a talk back discussion after the Feb. 18 performance. Buy tickets by calling OvationTix at 866-811-4111, at the door or online at www.pcstheater.org.