Slow Burn’s “Little Shop of Horrors” Dazzles With Gory Delight

The cast of “Little Shop of Horrors” at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts

Just in time for the Halloween season, Slow Burn Theatre Co’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” brings the timeless classic to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts’ Amaturo Theater stage. The company’s first production in the 2022-2023 season, the show comes off the heels of the troupe’s previous season which featured delightfully whimsical renditions of “Matilda” and “Head Over Heels.” With the group’s commitment to bringing “the best of contemporary musical theater to South Florida” the group continues that tradition in a spectacle-filled version of the 1982 Off-Broadway smash hit. Running from now until October 30, do not hesitate to get your tickets for this iconic show.

“Little Shop of Horrors” cast, photo by Larry Marano

Adapted from a 1960 black-and-white horror comedy b-movie of the same name, “Little Shop of Horrors” began its life on stage in the East Village’s “Orpheum Theater.” With a current Off-Broadway run finding success at the Westside Theater, “Little Shop of Horrors” has found  longevity in the smaller theatrical houses across the nation. This is not at all a knock on the show as the intimacy proves to be a strength here, especially in the Slow Burn version. “Little Shop” finds its footing almost as a revue-style show with characters rotating around the Skid Row set. 

As the lovable clutz protagonist Seymour, Nick Anastasia delivers some fantastic acting choices. His love interest, the unlucky ingenue Audrey is played skillfully by Caiti Marlowe, who avoids the trappings of the iconic Ellen Greene role, portrays Audrey with less ditz and more agency. One of the tallest orders in the show is Jeffrey Keller as Dr. Orin Scrivello D.D.S, who also tackles four other parts with comedic timing and some of the most expressive performances I have ever witnessed on a stage. With the show narrated by the three “urchins” Crystal, Ronnette and Chiffon (named for three iconic 60s girl groups), Nayomi Braaf, Khadijah Rolle and Kareema Khouri are so perfectly in-sync that their chemistry with the rest of the cast feels so intertwined with the narrative unfolding on stage. Manning the Audrey II, Tarik Zeigler’s vocal performance is delivered with a commanding sense of unease that evokes “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins’ own theatricality, while Aaron Atkinson takes on the physically demanding role of puppeteering the carnivorous plant.

Set in the “Skid Row” district of New York, scenic designer Kelly Tighe approaches the set centered around Mushnik’s Flower Shop, flanked by two building facades. The flexibility of Tighe’s set piece to alternate between the exterior and interior of Mushnik’s allows for the transition between Audrey II plants to take place seamlessly between transitions. Lighting designer Clifford Spulock’s approach to the rig feels somewhere between rock concert and haunted house, truly evoking the internal dread the viewer should experience as the body count rises in the show. Director, wig designer and choreographer Patrick Fitzwater truly hits it out of the park with triple duties, pulling some truly phenomenal acting choices out of his cast, styling wigs that defy gravity to high heaven and blocking that makes every movement intentional. Costume designer Rick Pena pulls some truly inspired costume choices that play up the camp of the 1960s in technicolor palettes. With some costume changes occurring in a snap, it is truly remarkable how much detail is placed in every single detail of this production.

With music and lyrics by legendary composers Alan Menken and Howard Ashman respectively, “Little Shop” was one of their first big projects as a duo before their Disney days. In fact, you can hear a bit of the end “Part of Your World” in the ending of “Somewhere That’s Green.” Menken’s score takes riffs and inspiration from the biggest artists of the 1960s, from doo wop to big ballads. As Menken creates infectious musical motifs that will have you humming all the way out of the theater, Howard Ashman’s lyricism here is both comedic gold and truly heart-wrenching. With Danny Troob orchestrations for a small rock band, with new vocal arrangements by Michael Kosarin, the classic songs will definitely appeal to die-hard musical theater lovers and casual fans alike.

As a child, I grew up seeing the image of the Audrey II puppet writhing about behind the urchins on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as Hunter Foster and Kerry Butler belted out the show’s 11 o’clock number  “Suddenly Seymour.” The 1986 film version was one of my first introductions to musical theater that was campy, ridiculous, and outright gory. “Little Shop of Horrors” holds such a dear place in my heart and the Slow Burn Theatre Co. crafts the show with a fine-tooth comb. With the eerie tone nailed so expertly, with phenomenal performances and Broadway-level set design, “Little Shop of Horrors” at Broward Center is not to be missed. Tickets are available now until October 30. 

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