The Fulton Theatre opens its new season with a stunningly creative production of “Little Shop of Horrors”. This contemporary classic, with a score by the legendary Alan Menken, tells the story of a nerdy store clerk named Seymour Krelborn (Ben Liebert) who discovers a mysterious blood-devouring plant that he names Audrey II (Patrice Covington). The plant is named after Seymour’s love interest and good friend Audrey (Christine Sherrill). Audrey works at the plant store “Mushnik and Son” with Seymour, but much to Seymour’s dismay, she is dating an abusive dentist named Orin Scrivello (Nathaniel Hackmann). As Seymour appeases the plant’s constant appetite for blood, he grows into a local celebrity, while all at the cost of committing murder. This situation leaves Seymour having to decide whether it is more important to literally kill for fame or to be a good and honest man.
Ben Liebert is delightfully geeky as Seymour Krelborn. Along with being in fine voice throughout the performance, Liebert tackles Seymour’s arc remarkably well and gives much heart to this wonderful character. Christine Sherrill’s warm interpretation of the flawed but loving Audrey is one of the many bright spots in this incredible production. Sherrill not only displays extremely strong chemistry with Liebert’s Seymour but also gets to show powerful vulnerability in the numbers “Suddenly Seymour” and “Somewhere That’s Green”. Liebert and Sherrill’s portrayals of Seymour and Audrey serve as the emotional anchors of the evening and give fresh takes on these iconic roles.
Michael Iannucci brings great wit to the store owner Mushnik. Although not as major of a part as Seymour and Audrey, Iannucci elicits laughs from his constant attempts to find out Seymour’s secret. He also displays great comic timing in the awkwardly hilarious number “Mushnik and Son.”
Nathaniel Hackmann is a comedic riot as the pain-loving dentist Orin Scrivello. Hackmann was last seen at The Fulton playing the villainous Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast”. The actor is nearly unrecognizable in his latest turn in “Little Shop of Horrors”. With slicked back hair, and covered with tattoos, Hackmann’s take on this role is delightfully demented. His Act One showcase “Be a Dentist (Dentist!)” was a major show stopper and had the audience in hysterics. Hackmann’s performance with his rock star swagger and off the wall comedic energy gives the audience a dentist unlike any they have ever seen.
Galyana Castillo, Shea Renne and Gina Naomi Baez wowed the audience as the street urchins who serve as the Greek chorus of the piece. They impress with their roof-raising voices in the opening title song and in the number “Suppertime”. Their glitter-filled dresses from Ryan J. Moller elicited gasps from the audience. The ensemble also does a strong job in their various roles. Every member of the ensemble contributes to the show and are all a joy to watch.
Last, but certainly not least, Patrice Covington is deliciously vile as Audrey II. With a fabulous costume design by Ryan J. Moller and prop work by Katelin Walsko, in this production, Audrey II is literally towering over the characters by the end of the evening. Covington brings great wit and killer vocal chops to the villainous plant. Her engrossing performance in the songs “Suppertime” and “Git It (Feed Me)” had the audience erupting in rapturous applause from sheer delight. Covington’s enthralling performance as the plant is a superb combination of true talent and extremely strong design that is worth the price of admission alone.
Robert Andrew Kovach’s set, with its unique turntable device to switch between locations, brings delightful visual surprises throughout. Matthew Demascolo’s colorful lights is an excellent contrast of bright, heightened lighting for the pop filled numbers “Skid Row (Downtown)” and “Be a Dentist (Dentist) ”, and strobe-filled harsh lighting for the scenes that involve Audrey II. Kovach and Demascolo’s set and lighting work in perfect harmony and bring constant thrills to the evening.
Ryan J. Moller and Anthony Lascoski Jr. both truly outdo themselves with their vibrant costumes and wig and makeup design. Just like with Kovach and Demascolo’s set and lights, Moller and Lascoski manage to achieve a flawless contrast between the light and dark aspects of the story. Moller’s glitter filled dresses for the opening number are enough to impress even the most jaded theatre goer. Once the bright costumes of the opening number blend in with the gritty outfits for the inhabitants of Skid Row, as they do in the rousing song “Skid Row (Downtown)”, a stunning contrast is achieved that serves the intent of Howard Ashman’s book remarkably well.
Alan Menken’s instantly catchy score is played with remarkable flair by the nine-piece live band that is led by Patrick Fanning. Although the score may be a little loud from Jacob Mishler’s sound design, it adds greatly to the infectious and exciting nature of the piece.
Marc Robin brings a refreshingly modern sensibility to this wonderful musical. He trusts greatly in Howard Ashman’s hilariously campy book, and just simply lets the excellent material speak for itself. Robin’s decision to have the plant be played by an actual actress instead of the normal puppet, brings great excitement to the evening. This is a production where all of the creative elements fire on all cylinders, and that is a great testament to Robin’s strong directorial hand.
The Fulton’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” is a fresh take on a crowd favorite that exceeds all expectations. Although it is a limited run, this production is one so triumphant that it deserves to run for years. Run, don’t walk, to this stellar production of “Little Shop of Horrors”, with its extremely strong cast and creative team.