Skid Row landed smack dab in the middle of the Don Evans Black Box Theatre when TCNJ Musical Theater (TMT)’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” took over.
Playing from April 1-4, the show, about a poor flower shop in a slum that profits from the exotic man-eating plant one of its employees finds, was everything one comes to expect from TMT. The music was captivating. While every song was some play on a rock-genre – doo-wop, funk, power ballads and just plain old rock ‘n’ roll – some stood out.
“Little Shop of Horrors,” the first song that stood in for an overture, set the tone for the show. Dreena Moran, junior English major, Gabi Crespo, freshman nursing major and Sara Truluck, junior music education major, harmonized perfectly as the slum-rats Ronnette, Crystal and Chiffon.
“Skid Row (Downtown)” was the first ensemble piece, and while it was a bit overwhelming when everyone sang, it was still great. A highlight was downtrodden hero Seymour Krelborn, played by sophomore art eduction major Zach Mazouat. He has a great line in the song: “When I asked God what I’m for, he said he’s not sure.”
“Somewhere That’s Green,” a pretty ballad sung by Audrey, battered heroine and Seymour’s love interest, played by sophomore biology major Rose Filoramo, who kept her Brooklyn accent with effortless ease every time she sang, and “Dentist!,” which marked the first appearance of Audrey’s abusive, rebel boyfriend Orin Srivello, memorably portrayed by Dan Keyser, senior finance major, were also very well done. Keyser was rather terrifying as the sadistic, leather-wearing dental expert
But it was the sudden vocalization of Audrey II, the giant man-eating plant that the entire play revolves around, in “Feed Me (Git It)” that stole the show. The Audrey II puppets (there were three throughout the show and each got increasingly bigger) were incredible. They were controlled by junior computer science major Vincent St. John, and Lancaster gave them vocal cords. Not only was Lancaster funny and raunchy as the giant blood-obsessed fly-trap in the song, but Mazouat got to showcase an impressive set of pipes for the first time.
“Now (It’s Just the Gas)” had the potential to be an epic moment, considering Keyser’s Orin was attempting to give Mazouat’s Seymour, who was trying to kill him so he could be fed to Audrey II, a dental exam and pain turns Orin on. “There’s always time for a little dental hygiene,” Keyser quipped. But, unfortunately the script had Keyser don a gas mask for most of the scene and it was almost impossible to hear him once it was on.
Act II’s highlights included “Suddenly, Seymour,” a song in which Audrey realizes she actually loves Seymour, and “Suppertime,” when Audrey II convinces Seymour to feed his boss, Mr. Mushnik (very memorably played by senior history and communication studies major Vinny Scafuto – his Yiddish accent had people hysterical all night), to him. Audrey II actually ate Mr. Mushnik on stage in a very realistic and scary way.
The show was staged in the much smaller Black Box Theatre instead of on the Kendall Hall Main Stage. According to Scafuto, it was to achieve an intimate feel in a student-directed production. Yet, each time the entire ensemble sang together it was overwhelming. During certain parts of the show, it was difficult to see the action when the actors were right in the front of the stage-area due to the shape and size of the theater.
Besides these few unfortunate circumstances, the show was a success. The set was magnificent. What with the garbage cans, construction cones and drunkards (senior philosophy major Kevin “Vegas” Lancaster in a memorable cameo), it really seemed as if the slum that is Skid Row had infested the theatre on the packed opening night.
In the end, “Little Shop of Horrors” was definitely an ensemble piece. If any actor came close to stealing the show, it was Mazouat. His Seymour was very convincingly equal parts terrified, yearning and adorable. The last scene of the play in which he goes down Audrey II’s gullet with a machete was one of the best of the show. Yet, it seems like the graduating seniors of TMT deserved a better send-off than the small theatre and quirky, though quite enjoyable show, provided.
Overall, “Little Shop of Horrors” was a pleasing experience. While social commentary on fame and fortune and herd mentality were thinly veiled throughout, the show was funny and easy on the ear.
But through it all, the only thing to remember from the experience, as the cast most of which have been eaten and have become a part of Audrey II sings in the end, is “Don’t Feed the Plants.”
Caroline Russomanno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.