There’s no sense in beating around the bush: the Cape Cod Theatre Company’s production of Little Shop of Horrors is sheer perfection… and a whole lot of fun.
As anyone who’s seen the play knows, the material is superb. Alan Menken’s score melds rock, pop, doo-wop, Motown, and Broadway, and blends seamlessly with the humor and heart in Howard Ashman’s lyrics. The stroke of genius on this collaboration was the use of three high-school dropouts as a Greek chorus, with their names—Chiffon, Crystal, and Ronnette (Julia DiPreta, Shauna Condon, and Sophie Clingan)—a loving homage to the girl groups of the 1960s.
But Cape Cod isn’t Off-Broadway, and what is remarkable in this production is the professionalism and sheer talent of this very young and very strong cast, many of them alumni or current members of the company’s Harwich Junior Theatre.
Little Shop of Horrors takes place in Mushnik’s (Stella Wolf) skid row flower shop. After days of no business, Mushnik decides to close his shop—until his downtrodden employees, Audrey (Isabelle Archer) and Seymour (Matt Kohler) convince him to stay open. Seymour introduces Mushnik to a strange plant he’s been cultivating in the back room; once the plant is in the window, the shop suddenly experiences success, becoming “Skid Row’s Favorite Florist.” Seymour is in love with Audrey and has named his creation Audrey Two in her honor, but Audrey has eyes only for her abusive boyfriend Orin (Ari Lew). The plant, fed until now on blood from Seymour’s cuts and scratches, becomes more and more voracious, and Seymour must predictably make decisions about how to handle the plant’s need for human flesh.
Archer isn’t unknown on the Cape; she’s previously done outstanding turns in Bye Bye Birdie and The Wiz, but she’s frankly spectacular as Audrey, hitting all the right notes—both literally and figuratively. She projects innocence, vulnerability, and longing without ever tipping over into pathos, and her voice is pure and ethereal, lifting her character’s desire for tract housing and a disposal in the sink to something deeper and more soulful. Her deliberate posturing—part of Suzette Hutchinson’s remarkably excellent choreography—gets the intended laughs, but this is a girl who doesn’t have much humor in her life, and you find yourself really rooting for that house in the suburbs.
As Seymour, Kohler—who also serves as technical director and did the set design—plays the nerd to a T, bumbling around the stage in subservience to Mr. Mushnik and not seeing the parallels between his existence and that of the battered Audrey. Kohler moves believably from his comedic scenes to the touching and romantic “Suddenly Seymour” duet, and even as he becomes murderous never really feels dangerous.
It would be easy to call out all the actors in this production, because no one is putting a foot wrong. A special treat is Doug Sivco in a series of brief supporting roles. The energy and talent of this group of actors is energizing to those around them, and the audience on opening night was almost as entertaining as what was onstage, with enthusiasm that reverberated off the walls.
Little Shop of Horrors’ blend of dark comedy, romance, and sincerity prove why it’s developed a cult following and remains a favorite of musical theater lovers. The Cape Cod Theatre Company’s production is everything Little Shop should be—and more. From the vocal arrangements to the unsung heroes of the orchestra, from the costume design to the sound, this production doesn’t strike one wrong note. Go see it: it’s well worth the trip to Harwich!