Little Shop of Horrors at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre
It’s obvious to anyone who has met me that I adore musical theater, and Little Shop of Horrors is one of my absolute favorite productions. From the astounding puppetry to the sweet romance between Seymour and Audrey to the Elvis-parody dentist…I love it all. It’s a show I aspire to perform in some day and will always go see whenever I get the chance. I was delighted to see it being put on by the Morgan-Wixon Theatre in Santa Monica.
Little Shop of Horrors is a darkly comedic creature-feature musical. The audience is introduced to sad-sack aspiring florist Seymour, Audrey, the co-worker he’s in love with, and the strange and unusual plant he bought after a total eclipse of the sun, which he’s named “Audrey II.” Little does Seymour know, Audrey II is from another planet and requires fresh human blood (and body parts) to survive and flourish. Initially caught up in impressing the human Audrey, Seymour finds ways to satiate Audrey II’s hunger. But what happens when the blood-thirsty plant gets bigger and requires more blood than Seymour can provide?
The Morgan-Wixon Theatre, located in Santa Monica, is a volunteer-based community theater with both a Mainstage season and a youth education series. Part of their 5-show Mainstage season, Little Shop of Horrors is an absolute delight and raises the quality of intimate community theater. Directed by D’Shaun A. Brooker, the story and songs are brought to colorful life. The actors, whom I’ll address shortly, are on point and fantastically cast in their roles; the vivid Audrey II plant elicited an audible, amazed gasp from the audience; and the comedic moments were expertly choreographed to allow moments of relief from the tragic events that unfold.
Again, the cast of Little Shop is excellent and puts forth great performances and energy. Patrick Olsen is perfectly cast as Seymour; he exudes the sweet underdog persona, and has the singing chops and charm to take on such a leading role. I hold the character of Audrey near and dear to my heart, and Jess LaFever does a fantastic job. She brilliantly toes the line of being heartbreaking when in an abusive relationship and always being optimistic and caring when it comes to Seymour. LaFever provides a classy realness – and great voice – despite taking on a role that can easily swing into caricature territory. I also love her costumes! Brian O’Sullivan’s energy as sadistic Orin is infectious and one can’t help but smile when he’s onstage – despite him being such a heinous character. O’Sullivan also surprises as a few other minor characters, all exciting and different from the last.
The chorus girls – Tyra Dennis, FreXinet Johnson and Brayon Rollison – serve as narrators as well as characters within the world, and provide some extra context to the proceedings. The trio shines in their harmonies and choreography, bringing enthusiasm and liveliness to the stage, but their solos can be slightly more polished. Marc Ostroff brings great acting and comedy to his role of Mr. Mushnik, but is the hardest to hear when singing over the recorded tracks. And, of course, Little Shop would not be a classic without the puppeteer/voice duo that brings plant Audrey II to life. With the help of a microphone, Steven Flowers showcases all of Audrey II’s raspy quips and groovy R&B vocals. Working in tandem with Flowers’ voice, Matthew Artson spends almost the entire show in a massive plant puppet doing a great job interacting – and eating – the other actors!
Little Shop of Horrors at the Morgan-Wixon is such a fun time at the theater. The cast is right on target with their characters, the singing by Olsen and LaFever is especially excellent, and the technical feats of Audrey II are nothing short of breathtaking. The show is perfect for the intimate theater and succeeds far beyond expectations, balancing the dark comedy with the bleak allegory of losing yourself to achieve success. Even without any adjustments, Little Shop of Horrors will only get more polished with time, and it should definitely be seen!
Find more information about the Morgan-Wixon Theatre and their shows on their website or Facebook page, and get your tickets to Little Shop of Horrors, running now through April 13th, here – and remember: Don’t feed the plants!