Little Shop of Horrors: Puppets, animated troupe brings musical to life

Linda Conohan, Staff Writer

The Madison Area Technical College Performing Arts interpretation of the “Little Shop of Horrors,” directed by Robin Fonfara, opened Friday, Feb. 4. “Little Shop of Horrors” is a dark comedic musical based on the book.  The lyrics were written by Howard Ashman and music done by Alan Menken. Their ability to put peppy timing to some slangy lyrics to create a whimsical air and then contrast by the solid libretto using a slower tempo with a varied dynamic range adds another level of emotion. The original production (1982) was directed by Howard Ashman and produced at the Orpheum Theatre (Off Broadway) in New York City.

Fonfara directed the animated troupe of performers and puppeteers with a fine tuned timing that kept the audience totally drawn in. The only snafu of the entire production was not an error on the part of the cast or chorus but the sound and lighting delays that took away from the excitement of the opening number. The technical difficulties at the beginning were soon forgotten as the ensemble brought the audience into the story with their varied personalities. Also, the three dimensional backdrop on the stage gave the set a bigger than reality realm to work from.

“Little Shop of Horrors” is focused around a nerdy orphan named Seymour who acquired an extraterrestrial plant that he named Audrey II. He soon finds out the Audrey II feeds off of human blood.  Still, his desire for success of the flower shop and the better life for the woman (Audrey) he is fond of, he does whatever it takes, even murder, to keep Audrey II and his dreams alive.

Seymour, played by Mike Schmidt is a convincing socially inept, skid row, and unaware nerd as he continues to be persuaded by the foul-mouthed plant to do its will. His singing voice is a falsetto in the range of childlike naivety, unless he is in thought of the women Audrey, then his timbre matures and the notes are brought up from his heart. Audrey, played by Alise Mosley sings with an angelic voice that lets you know that there is true goodness in a person who doesn’t feel worthy of real love.

In between Seymour and Audrey is a masochistic, laughing-gas-dependant dentist named Orin (played by Jared Sigler). Orin loves himself and the pain he can cause to others. His voice can hold a note long enough to let you know he has a large ego and loves to show off. Seymour and Orin’s vocal interchange (in front of a black backdrop) is both humorous and cold (as the writer intended). The outcome (which you will have to see for yourself) after this duet, frees up Seymour and Audrey to connect.  Where Schmidt and Mosley really shine in their thespian and vocal chemistry is when they sing “Suddenly, Seymour.”

“Little Shop of Horrors” will be running through Sunday, Feb. 13. This is an entertaining performance that will leave you with a few things to ponder. The ending is both dark and lively at the same time.  One thing for sure, the foul mouthed Audrey II couldn’t prevent Seymour and Audrey from eventually becoming soul mates.