By GEORGETTE SPELVIN
“Little Shop of Horrors” is a “horror comedy rock musical” about a man and his plant. In the hands of Titusville Playhouse director Niko Stamos, it also is one hell of a reminder of how artistic directors become artistic directors, because it is a complete triumph for Steven J. Heron who stars in this production.
The musical was written by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who later wrote about a mermaid, a beast and a genie for your chargé d’affaires. Based on a silly (forgettable) Roger Corman film from the early ’60s, the musical played off-Broadway in 1982 and on Broadway in 2003. It centers on Seymour (Heron), a sweetly nerdy botanist in love with the sweetly ditzy Noo Yawka Audrey (Leyla Corbett), a human. Seymour is also in love with Audrey II, a bizarre plant. Listen, he’s got to love the thing if he feeds it his own blood. They work at a floral shop on Skid Row owned by the bombastic spouter of hilarious Yiddishisms, Mr. Mushnik (Steve Williams).
As Seymour, Heron is on stage virtually the entire show. He doesn’t waver, vocally or physically, in a role that requires no shortage of energy. He’s brilliant. In fact, he’s a whole lot more brilliant than a whole lot more famous people who have played Seymour because he makes the character a whole lot more endearing than they have. And the man can sing.
So, in fact, can virtually everyone in this show: From Corbett and Williams (what a find he has been for TPI) to Lillie Eliza Thomas, Gabriella Mercado and Erica Bargas, who serve as a sort of Greek chorus with first-class harmonies. Their characters’ names are Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette…Shirelle and Vandella stayed home.Puppeteers manning the ever growing Audrey II plant — Shauna Charvet and Jesse Huffman — should take more than one bow because they rock. Gregg Baker II, who provides the voice of the Plant That Ate Skid Row, is more than just fine. He’s does a superb voice-over turn as Audrey II in a clear, booming baritone you will remember long after you exit the Emma Parrish. “No shit, Sherlock!” will never sound the same. (Are you reading this, Seymour J. Heron? Gregg Baker is a keeper.) Courtney Charvet plays the evil dentist Orin Scrivello with campy menace and the ensemble is just fine.
One more kudo, and that goes to Stamos, whose direction allows the show to maintain the tongue-in-cheek vitality it was meant to have, minus the temptation to slip into meaningless slapstick.
No more verbiage. Go see “Little Shop.”
SIDE O’GRITS: “Little Shop of Horrors” runs through Oct. 16 at Titusville Playhouse, 301 Julia St., Titusville. Tickets are $22 to $28. Call 321-268-1125, visit TitusvillePlayhouse.com or click onto their ad.