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‘Little Shop of Horrors’ bites just right

“Little Shop of Horrors” first was a film created by Roger Corman, distributed as a B-movie in 1960. It slowly gained recognition and fame throughout the years, acquiring a cult following. The low-budget film came to earn popularity mostly because it was turned into a musical by Alan Menken (music) and Howard Ashman (book and lyrics) that premiered off-off Broadway. Most recently, Brandeis University’s Tympanium Euphorium revived the show Nov. 19-22 in the SCC Theater.

Tymp’s production of “Little Shop” was gleeful and entertaining. The story centers on a meek shop assistant named Seymour, who brings an unusual plant to the shop, which he names Audrey II (after his love interest, Audrey). Though previously a struggling business, all of a sudden, business grows with the plant. After Seymour feeds Audrey’s boyfriend, Orin, to the carnivorous plant, he encounters a problem that only gets bigger and bigger—he has to come up with more bodies for the bloodthirsty plant.

The cast made the production a delight from beginning to end. The characterizations by Scarlett Huck ’18 (Audrey), Nathan Schneider ’18 (Seymour), Gabriel Walker ’19 (Mr. Mushnik) and Zain Walker ’18 (Orin) were patently sublime and a standout.

Huck possesses an immaculate voice. The compassion that she brings to her character is incomparable. Every scene she is in is breathtaking.

Schneider portrayed Seymour with such humbleness and was also very capable of humanizing the character even during his darkest moments. There was something special in the physicality of Seymour. It could be either consciously or subconsciously, that Seymour tended to have a conspicuous tic with his hands that displayed the character’s timidity, insecurity and guilt.

Walker seems to be a character actor who is able to deliver all his lines in a comical way. Additionally, his likeable accent made it memorable.

He also went over the top without exaggerating. The greatest thing about theater is that actors are given more freedom to exaggerate and be flamboyant, which isn’t something that actors can often do on TV or in film. Walker had this theatrical rule in his mind, and it suits him because in the end it undoubtedly makes him a scene stealer.

In terms of production, the excellent lighting represented very well each theme of the play. There is romance, horror, suspense, comedy, gaiety and music—after all, the play itself is a bundle of things: a comedy horror rock musical.

There were a few mishaps during the performance. There was a moment in which the audience thought that the sound had utterly failed. However, the technical team behind it was efficient enough to be able to fix it in a matter of seconds. The orchestral pit was occasionally too loud, overpowering the lines of the actors and creating a cacophony that did not seem rehearsed to the public eye.

Despite the compelling performances, the second act was highly disappointing and unnecessarily long. The pace was tedious. In fact, there were a few parts that just felt as if they were filling holes. The play could perfectly have lasted 90 minutes rather than two straight hours.

There were moments that became too melodramatic. The version that Tymp performed did stick to the original Off-Broadway musical, so their production is not to blame. It is understandable that they are not allowed to make drastic changes in this work. Nevertheless, it must be addressed that the part in which Audrey asks Seymour to feed her to the plant, soon after she dies, is in fact too sappy, too melodramatic. The only version of this play in which Audrey does not die is in the film version of 1986, and it seems to work, since the motion picture has a 90-percent rating on RottenTomatoes, earned two Oscar nominations and was considered for the AFI’s lists of “100 Years of Musicals” and “100 Years of Songs.”

Overall, though, what Tympanium Euphorium was able to put together proved to be entertaining and served as a showcase for the actors to demonstrate their range, personality and, of course, theatrical prowess.

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