Photo credit Julianna Chen
Little Shop of Horrors by the PA Leadership Charter School in West Chester, PA
March 21, 2018
Review submitted by Anji Cooper of Academy of the New Church
It’s not easy to live downtown in “Skid Row.” Downtown is where the folks are broke, and where they’ll do just about anything to escape to “Somewhere That’s Green.” They’ll even go as far as committing murder. Blossoming with energy and dark humor, PA Leadership Charter School’s Little Shop of Horrors was maliciously and hilariously entertaining.
Written by Howard Ashman with music by Alan Menken, Little Shop of Horrors is a horror comedy rock musical that premiered Off-Broadway in 1982. Set in a flower shop in the slums, the story follows a hapless florist as he finds an opportunity for both success and romance with the help of a giant plant that has an insatiable hunger for human blood.
PA Leadership Charter School’s production of Little Shop of Horrors was impressive because exceptionally talented actors delivered captivating energy and stunning harmonies to the packed theater.
John Viggiano, who played the lovably awkward Seymour, stole the show and the hearts of the audience with his boyish charm and melodic voice. His emotive style had the audience sympathizing for his plight. Viggiano’s on-stage chemistry with Seymour’s love interest was magnetic, adding even more realism to an already gripping production. Audrey (Amanda Clark), the timid, yet sweet target of Seymour’s affection, consistently demonstrated impressive vocals throughout the show, especially during her performance of “Somewhere That’s Green.”
The rest of the cast was equally as engaging and energetic. Ronnette (Grace Slear), Chiffon (Becky Advena) and Crystal (Hannah Cohen) quickly became crowd favorites with their sassy attitudes and powerful voices. The trio was able to seamlessly change costumes between scenes, always arriving on time to blow the audience away with spine-tingling harmonies. Zachary Powell used his place on stage to add more personality to the character of Audrey II, the man-eating plant, through expression and small movements. His velvety voice was enthralling on songs like “Feed Me (Git It)” and “Suppertime,” convincing even the queasiest of spectators to consider murdering for the malevolent plant. Neil Devlin constantly drew laughter from the crowd with his portrayal of Orin, the sadistic dentist.
The technical support for the show combined innovative marketing with capable stage production. To generate excitement, John Viggiano posted a small series of videos onto the Little Shop of Horrors’ Facebook page. This was a unique publicity move that paid off with insights into the creation of the show. The lightning, orchestrated by Julianna Chen, helped to dramatize intense moments, such as when Seymour attempts to shoot Audrey II. While the stage crew encountered some difficulties with moving the set, their impassive, calm handling of such issues hardly caused a distraction.
PA Leadership Charter’s production of Little Shop of Horrors was engrossing and fun, showcasing a notably talented cast that left the audience with one vital, resounding lesson: don’t feed the plants.
Review submitted by Allegra Greenawalt of Harriton High School
With sunrays of horror, showers of humor, and the nourishment of pure passion, PA Leadership Charter School’s production of Little Shop of Horrors grew the seed of a popular show into a blooming piece of musical theater that was to die for.
Based on the 1960 cult film of the same name, Little Shop of Horrors tells the story of amateur florist Seymour as he struggles to achieve anything successful out of his mediocre life – something he finds in a mysterious breed of flytrap plant. However, when the plant begins to develop a thirst for human blood, Seymour realizes his success has come at the cost of a total catastrophe. Featuring a killer script by Howard Ashman and rock ‘n’ roll songs composed by Alan Menken, the show received great critical acclaim and a reputation as one of the most popular musicals to date.
Although many productions of this musical are often played with exaggerated characters and comical accents, PALCS’s production took a more natural approach to the archetypes. Rather than embracing the zaniness of their roles, each actor played their characters more realistically. While it was a unique and innovative approach, the added drama of certain scenes occasionally distracted from the much-needed comic relief in the dialogue.
John Viggiano was endearing in his portrayal of the quirky Seymour. His vocals were outstanding, showing impressive technique as he belted the notably demanding score. Viggiano also displayed broad emotional range, consistently portraying both the comedic and dramatic moments of the show with ease. He had undeniable chemistry with Amanda Clark as fellow florist Audrey, whose fine voice and natural acting ability beautifully conveyed her character’s heartbreaking story.
The terrifying flytrap, Audrey II, was brought to life by the dynamic duo of Amelia Rottman and Zachary Powell. Rottman’s skillfull manipulation of the large puppet was impressive, as she perfectly timed her movements with Powell’s sultry vocals. As Ronnette, triple-threat Grace Slear dominated the performance with confident poise and incredible stage presence. Along with Becky Advena (Chiffon) and Hannah Cohen (Crystal), the trio of urchins stole the show with their razor-sharp harmonies and groovy dance moves. Their presence alone in numbers such as “Skid Row” and “Feed Me (Git It)” made them all the more memorable.
The talent was not only found in the actors but was abundant behind the scenes as well. Julianna Chen’s lighting design was simple, yet very effective. Each cue was fluid, well-executed, and did not distract from the onstage action.
While the ending was far from happy, PALCS’s production of Little Shop of Horrors was thoroughly entertaining and left everyone with an important reminder: don’t feed the plants!