BY SANDY STAGGS
Skid Row is filled with dirty alleys, failing businesses and the downtrodden and the hopeless. That is, until a botanical wonder brings new life into the neighborhood along with a barrage of national press such as Life Magazine.
But success for meek floral shop worker Seymour (played by Andy Lecture) comes with a carnivorous caveat in FIRE Theatre’s 9th Season opener “Little Shop of Horrors”‑ his newly-discovered plant has a unquenchable thirst for human blood that he can’t sustain any longer just by pricking his fingers.
Just in time for Halloween, this musical comedy by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman based on the 1960 Roger Corman sci-fi horror film is all rock and roll, doo-wop and early Motown. And, a whole lot of fun.
Seymour’s life of hard-knocks is about to take a detour onto Easy Street (“Sudden Changes”). And his years of longing for his beautiful blonde co-worker Audrey (Maggie Fowler) may finally pay off with the notoriety of his discovery named in her honor, Audrey II.
Lecture gives his inept, shy Seymour rain buckets of enthralling charm and his propensity for humor.
And Miss Fowler lends a tender innocence to Audrey and doesn’t disappoint with the show’s two best numbers: “Somewhere That’s Green” as she pines about leaving Skid Row for the suburbs, and in her beautiful duet with Lecture in the crowd-pleaser ballad “Suddenly Seymour.”
The always-affable Hugh Murphy (FIRE’s resident go-to actor) plays Seymour’s paternal figure and boss Mr. Mushnik, the owner of the floral shop with resounding aplomb.
And Josephs Bogs is easy to despise as Audrey’s abusive boyfriend, the sadist dentist Orin Scrivello, as well as a coterie of six more characters, even Mrs. Luce, the wife of the Life magazine editor. Mr. Bogs even manages to sing “Now (It’s Just the Gas)” clearly and vividly while wearing a nitrous oxide gas mask.
Finally, adding local color to the proceeding are the omnipresent Urchins, a doo-wop trio comprised of Chiffon (Allecia Schulz), Ronnette (Tracy Bogs) and Crystal (Hallie Gold). Acting as a Greek Chorus, these ladies dazzle in the opening number “Little Shop of Horrors” and pop in out of the story for comic relief and musical three-part harmonies with ample oohs and ahhhs, especially the va-va-voom alto voice of Ms. Bogs in “Downtown (Skid Row).” Brava Ladies!
“Little Shop of Horrors” is valiantly directed by Artistic Director Zachary Pelicano and he also designed the set. But his crowning achievement is the one-eyed green and purple people eater, which begins as an innocuous exotic plant, grows to human-size and finally, a gargantuan rabid devourer of certain characters. The pure artistry and functionality of these puppets are awe-inspiring.
The costumes by Stacey Hawks and Charleine Hawks are colorful and highly effective, particularly the horticultural-themed fabric Audrey wears in her first scene and the Urchins’ matching “Poison Ivy” numbers in the finale.
Chase McAbee returns as Music Director and there are moments of pure vocal brilliance. McAbee also leads the rock band with Meghan Reimers on piano, Deborah York on keyboards, Paul Schneider on bass, Stephen Bevels on drums and Joshua Stovall on guitar.
Lighting Design is by Lisa Tranter, Sound by Lucas Pelicano and Puppeteers are Bailey Hiner, Rachel Hawks and Antoinette Hall.
The lighting in the second act was still a bit spotty (forgive the pun) on opening night but all-in-all, “Little Shop of Horrors” is a thoroughly amusing and enjoyable musical. And given the brand new theatre seating replete with cup holders and the awesome new lobby at the Younts Center, this production portends another season of high-caliber theatre and musical performances.
“Little Shop of Horrors” continues through Oct. 16, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. at the Younts Center for Performing Arts, 315 N. Main St. in Fountain Inn. Call (864) 409-0150 or visit http://www.yountscenter.org.
And don’t miss the Halloween presentation of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” by FIREside Radio Theatre on Oct. 31, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.