This iconic B horror cult musical, Little Shop of Horrors, lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken (who later goes on to write Disney songs) is directed by Matthew Davenport in the community production by Vagabond Players. Seymour is living his miserable life working at a florist threatening to go bankrupt any minute when a strange, exotic plant offers to grant him fame, riches, and the girl of his dreams. There is only one slight inconvenience; the Audrey II only consumes humans.
The small and cozy Bernie Legge theatre is long and narrow, with ten seats each row. The set and costumes are well thought out and fitting. The leads Ryan Waechter (Seymour) and Annie Arbuckle (Audrey) have good chemistry and the characters are well portrayed and believable. However, it is Thomas Lamont, who plays Orin, the abusive biker-dentist boyfriend of Audrey, who steals the show. With slicked back hair and the leather jacket he first appears to be a typical greaser but soon it is revealed that he is a sadistic dentist hooked on laughing gas. In the number, Dentist! his powerful voice fills the theatre and he captivates the audience with his charisma. Lamont’s laughter sends chills down the spine.
While the production is well executed, I could not help but notice that none of the actors have microphones on them. During the first half of the first act it isn’t a problem; the cast project and articulate enough to be heard and the band does not overpower the cast. However, when Audrey II, voiced by Regi Nevada, speaks, she seems out of place because the plant is the only one with a mic. Also most numbers with Audrey II are more upbeat than others. In result, the cast can not be heard clearly and sometimes they scream dialogue at each other. Especially Ross Friesen (Mushnik) is constantly barking his lines, so he sounds like he is announcing all the time. Even without Audrey II singing, I’m not sure if the audience in the very back row can hear them clearly, due to the peculiar structure of the theatre.
The puppeteer Richard Wiens is responsible for the movement of Audrey II. Though the movements are not perfect, it is reasonably well put together. The puppet could benefit from more overreaction and melodrama from the cast for the scenes to be more effective and funny, but it does its’ job and the speech and song are well synced.
Overall the vocally strong casts’ performance is impressive and the numbers are charming and enjoyable. The sound may be a problem but this show can be better enjoyed in the first few rows anyway. I urge you to check it out if you are in the area, but if you are going from campus, be prepared for two hours of transit.