REVIEW: Avon Players’ ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is Razor-Sharp Entertainment

As Avon Players brings another successful season to a close, it goes out on a hilarious high with the cult classic, Little Shop of Horrors running now, through June 8, 2024, in Rochester Hills, Michigan.

Little Shop of Horrors is a quirky blend of genres that includes comedy, sci-fi, camp, and romance all set to a lively musical score of doo-wop, rock ‘n roll, and Motown sounds. And it was evident that the full house on opening night loved every minute of the energy happening on stage.

Loosely based on a 1960 B-Movie of the same name, Little Shop of Horrors evolved into a stage musical with music and lyrics by the famed Disney duo of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast). In 1986, Rick Moranis and Steve Martin (as Seymour and Orin, respectively) starred in the movie version directed by Frank Oz, which has a completely different ending from the play.

Audrey II (Jason Briggs, voice & Aidan Roberts, puppeteer) tries to convince Seymour (Alex Pedica) to give in to her demands while Crystal (Ruby Amthor), Chiffon (Raven Ross), and Ronette (Kionna Daily) offer vocal support. Photo credit: Bryan Clifford

The Avon Players’ performance kicked off with the enthusiastic opening number “Little Shop of Horrors” which helped set the tone for everything that followed. The Urchins, Crystal (Ruby Amthor), Ronette (Kionna Daily), and Chiffon (Raven Ross, Avon Players’ debut), had smooth harmonies, and powerful pipes, and easily stole the show every time they took to the stage. They were a true delight to watch.

Little Shop of Horrors centers around Seymour (Alex Pedica), a lowly assistant in a struggling skid-row flower shop owned by Mr. Mushnik (Tim Falk). Seymour is cluelessly sweet and a bit clumsy. He wishes for a better life and that his work crush Audrey (Amanda Murray) would notice him. As the saying goes, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’

Seymour’s dreams seem to start coming true when he finds a strange-looking flytrap plant during a solar eclipse, which he names Audrey II (exceptionally voiced by Jason Briggs with Aidan Roberts as the Puppeteer: both in their Avon Players’ debut). The plant’s uniqueness soon attracts attention from media outlets (Jon Katz as the Interviewer), giving Mushnik’s more business than it can handle and turning Seymour into a star. But what only Seymour knows is that Audrey II has a distinct appetite – for blood.

At first, Seymour uses his own blood to keep Audrey II satisfied, but she is greedy and manipulative, and he is forced to seek unconventional ways to keep her happy. Seymour’s life quickly begins to spiral out of control, and he finds himself doing things against his better judgment, and that are completely out of character for him. He manages to justify his actions… until it finally gets too much for his conscience (“The Meek Shall Inherit”).

Audrey (Amanda Murray) and Seymour (Alex Pedica) dream of a better future together. Photo credit: Bryan Clifford

Like Seymour, Audrey has a heart of gold and yearns for something more beyond her current situation but doesn’t believe she’s worthy to have it (“Somewhere That’s Green”). One area where this is evident is in her abusive relationship with her boyfriend Orin, who is a sadistic dentist with an Elvis swagger and a penchant for pain… and huffing nitrous oxide (“Be a Dentist”). Skyler Janiszewski (in his Avon Players’ debut) gives a no-holds-barred performance that is hilarious. In addition to Orin, Janiszewski played multiple bit characters to the point where it was getting absurdly hysterical every time he appeared as a different person. His fast costume changes in the wings must have been just as entertaining as his routine on stage.

Orin (Skylar Janiszewski) the dentist is a menace. Photo credit: Bryan Clifford

A lot of Little Shop of Horrors is twisted absurd fun. Internally, you think you shouldn’t be laughing, but the material works and the audience eats it up. Do Audrey and Seymour get what they wish for? Sort of. After all, Audrey II can be very persuasive.

What I’ve come to appreciate most about this show is that the more you watch it, the more layers of its brilliance you uncover. It is filled with juxtapositions of light and dark, sincerity and satire. And it is also a subtle morality tale about the trappings of celebrity. This cast does an excellent job of showcasing all these elements from start to finish.

You must see this show at least once. If it is your favorite musical, see it again and support local theatre. If you’re looking for a laugh this holiday weekend, do yourself a favor and see this production of Little Shop of Horrors. And if you’re doing any gardening this weekend, be careful which plants you buy.

This performance runs approximately two hours with a 15-minute intermission. It also contains a water-based haze effect.

Little Shop of Horrors is directed by Chris Stepnitz and co-directed with Marlaina Jurco. Mark Palmer serves as producer. Scenic and lighting design is by John (JD) Deierlein with Sharon Jourdan on properties. Costume design is by Patty Hagel, along with wig design by Louise Holoday. Nick Kibler serves as sound designer and Jon Carrothers as musical director. Choreography is by Lana Hastings.

Tickets for all shows are $30. Call 248-608-9077 for tickets or order online at www.AvonPlayers.org. Discounts on matinee tickets are available for seniors and students; call the box office for details. Additionally, group rates are available by calling the box office. “Like” Avon Players Theatre on Facebook for special offers on tickets. All major credit cards are accepted. All seats are reserved. 

Show dates and times follow:

  • Saturday, May 25 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, May 26 at 2:00 p.m.
  • Friday, May 31 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 1 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 2 at 2:00 p.m.
  • Friday, June 7 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 8 at 8:00 p.m.
About Sarah Hovis

Freelance wordsmith, arts appreciator, grammar geek, sports spectator, stationery snob, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at sarah@rochestermedia.com.

Comments

  1. Is there something missing in this review? The author rightly praises the show’s powerful Female Chorus, the versatile Dentist, and the out-of-this-world Audrey II Voice and Puppeteer. She even found space to credit my little cameo. But other than their names, not a word about the three leads! It’s like, while she was writing, some evil force came along and…

    • Jon,

      No evil forces played any part in my review. 😉 The three leads did a wonderful job and were fun to watch, but it was the others that really captured my attention and that’s why I wrote about them. Nothing sinister at play, I promise.

Speak Your Mind

*