Encore Michigan

‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is Meadow Brook’s answer to Halloween fun

Review October 09, 2022 Encore Staff

By Natalie Sevick

ROCHESTER HILLS, MI–Let me set the scene for you. Imagine you’re understudying the lead role in a professional production of an iconic and beloved musical. It’s opening night… and you’re going on. Would you feel excited? Terrified? Both? This was the situation that young Antonio Vettraino was in Saturday night when I saw Little Shop of Horrors at Meadow Brook Theatre.

For those unfamiliar, Little Shop of Horrors is an homage to the classic science fiction trope of the man-eating-plant. Based on the 1960 (non-musical) B-movie directed by Charles B. Griffith, Harold Ashman and Alan Menken turned this cult classic into an Off-Broadway horror musical comedy in 1982, and in 1986, the well-known movie based on that musical was released.

In the play, geeky Seymour Krelborn and timid Audrey work together at Mushnik’s Flower Shop. Seymour comes into possession of a strange plant that seems to be able to grant him his innermost desires, but it comes at a cost. Is he willing to pay that price?

When I learned that the role of protagonist Seymour Krelborn, usually played by Tim Dolan, would be played by an understudy, I must admit that I was skeptical. Would he be up to the challenge? The answer was quickly determined to be a resounding, unequivocal YES! Any reservations that I had going in evaporated immediately once the show began. Adorably awkward, with a strong voice and excellent comedic timing, Vettraino was an absolutely wonderful Seymour. He proved beyond a doubt that it truly is the “Year of the Understudy!” Bravo!

Katy Kujala as Audrey was another standout. Particularly in her rendition of “Somewhere That’s Green,” Kujala’s vulnerability and angelic voice turn a somewhat forgettable song into an aria that will bring you to tears.

Dan Fenaughty did some heavy lifting, hilariously playing several characters in the show, including Orin Scrivello, DDS. With a perfectly stylized voice for the role, Fenaughty produced comedic gold every time he stepped onstage.

The street urchins, a kind of Greek chorus and literal chorus to the play events, were played beautifully by Sade Crosby, Meka King, and Destyni Williams. Reminiscent of girl groups from the 1960’s, the trio had a warm, powerful blend and plenty of fun interjections.

The voice of the plant, Audrey II, was played by Tamara Della Anderson. I was enraptured by her soulful timbre, sultry style, and a belt that will leave you applauding in your seat. I was also highly impressed by Tyler Bolda, who somehow managed to operate the Audrey II puppet, though I’m still trying to figure out exactly how he did it!

Rounding out the cast were Chip DuFord, dancing one doozy of a tango as Mr. Mushnik, and skid Row residents Mary Magyari and Jessica Nichols.

The challenge with a show like Little Shop of Horrors is that the characters are fairly archetypal. There’s not much room for an actor to make choices without losing the essence of their character. Under the direction of Travis W. Walter and the musical direction of Zachary Ryan, however, Meadow Brook’s cast did an excellent job of bringing their characters to life while making them their own.

Additionally, I must mention the engaging choreography by Debbie Williams, the stylish, period-appropriate costume design of Karen Kangas-Preston, and the stellar live band.

If you’re in search for a funny, scary (but not too scary) show that’s perfect for Halloween, look no further than Little Shop of Horrors at Meadow Brook Theatre, running now through October 30.

Natalie Sevick is an actress and musician, and guest reviewer for EncoreMichigan.com

Week of 11/28/2022

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