Little Shop Of Horrors Delights Audience In Salamanca

“Feed Me Seymour” echoed through the aisles during the opening night performance of “Little Shop of Horrors” staged at The Ray Evans Seneca Theater in Salamanca on Thursday evening. Little Shop of Horrors is a horror comedy rock musical by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman which premiered Off-Off Broadway in 1982. It has become very popular on the stages of numerous community theaters and high schools since it’s release. The musical is set in 1960 America, a floral shop in Skid Row New York, where an insecure, silly nerdy florist clerk raises unusual plants.

Derek DeVlieger was outstanding in his consistent role of Seymour, who was skillfully portrayed with shy mannerisms, a downcast gaze through Poindexter glasses, blue button down half-tucked shirt with Bic pen, flood water Khakis, white socks, Docksiders, rounded shoulders and accentuated buck teeth. DeVlieger’s vocal pursuits were excellent; especially popular was his duet of “Suddenly Seymour,” which was sung from the depth of his character’s heart to the tips of his fingers, that scooped in emphasis to support pure ending tones – Seymour’s Your Man.

Audrey, the bleached-blond, sweet and vulnerable character often sporting a black eye and a scarfed sling, was played by Aline Wintermantel, a sixteen-year-old junior in High School. This young lady’s pose, carriage and vocal ability far surpasses her age where she easily fulfilled this twenty-something role in a two piece glamorous white-gray sweater dress was complemented with yoked belt at waist. She indeed was blond, tall and beautiful where her rendition of “Somewhere That’s Green,” was purely and cleanly sung – “far from Skid Row, /I dream we’ll go, /somewhere that’s green.”

Plants are Seymour’s hobby, with a special one he named Audrey 2, in secret recognition of his love for Audrey. This Venus fly trap plant morphed after a total eclipse of the sun into a blood-thirsty, human-eating carnivore which was skillful puppeteered by DeVlieger, Shazz Gillette and Daman Holland. Audrey 2 turned around the rather failing floral shop – Mushnick’s Skid Row Florist – when it was placed in the window and became famous by passersby’s and the media. As Audrey 2 consumed many of the characters throughout the show, she grew into a large, eight-foot pod that required joint manipulation and lip synching to many catch songs joyfully but villainy executed with a jive soul personality by Artistic Director Todd Wagner, highlighted in “Suppertime,” – “come on, come on/it’s Suppertime.”

Wagner acknowledged that it was a stretch to mount this show in thirty-two days, having to locate the four stages of Audrey 2 in Pittsburg and then having to remake the final eight-foot pod because of its poor aesthetics. The lip-synching of the scissor like pods and the off-stage vocalizations by Wagner were flawless and to be highly commended.

Mushnick’s Skid Row Florist set was designed by Wagner and perfectly paralleled just that, with a costumer counter stage right; the utility workroom access up right and the stenciled store entrance stage left. A bow window was positioned up center where customers would travel to and fro, in and out of the shop. A large grid and stain glass window would secure the skylight above the bow window. Many suspended vintage coil light bulbs dated the set appropriately. Set dressing was authentically minimal where their floral products mostly potted greenhouse plants were stocked during the Grand Re-Opening. The area adjacent to the store entrance on stage left was set with a garbage can to denote the outside of the store.

There seemed to be a spatial ambiguity as to downstage termination of the floral shop and the sidewalk or street. This was complicated by lines of the lighting that didn’t focus ones attention to the appropriate areas, and wasn’t tailored to each scene to provide clarification. The apron of the stage was used in passing transitions at times with the grand curtain open, others with it closed. At times there would be dialogue or a song feature where the audience was not able to place whether it was sung on the street or in the shop. The dental scene was superimposed in the middle of the floral shop with only minimal lighting changes and no masking to depict a dental office of any kind. Light Design was completed by Ryan Philp that created many beautiful pictures throughout the show. Sound technician was noted to be Dale Whymer. The stage manager was Janette McClure.

Mikel Wintermantel was very effective in his middle-aged role of Mr. Mushnick, the boss and owner of the East Side florist. Mikel’s character was strong demonstrating a good musical theater voice noted in “Mushnick’s and Son,” where the floral shop was renamed because of the new business that started after the entrance of Audrey 2. DeVlieger and Mikel finalized their deal with a tango choreographed by Daman Holland. DeVlieger’s energy appeared to put him in the lead of this production number where Mushnick sung – “How would you like to be my son? How would you like to be my own adopted boy? Say yes, Seymour I want to be your dad.”

Holland’s choreography was executed with fun and excitement by Christine Panebianco as Crystal; Vanessa Kavanagh as Chiffon; and Colleen McClure, as Ronnette. This harmonious trio functioned as the narrator and commenter during many scenes that were played on the proscenium stairs stage right and stage left.

Holland played the aggressive, inhaling and sadistic role of Orin Scrivello, DDS who mostly likely was the cause of Audrey’s shiner and broken arm. This dentist was hooked on ntirous oxide that became his demise when setting Seymour up for a dental procedure. The tanked hooded gas mask could not be removed which added to the comedic nature of the song “Now, It’s Just the Gas.” Holland was extraordinary with his slow death, executing a dying leg ballet as he torqued his way to death.

Completing the cast was the Ensemble consisting of Cierra Gray, Gabe Grey, Kayla Kovacs, Pamela Morely, Brianna Marsh, Anderson Phillips, Shazz Gillette and Judy Zaricny who was most thrilled to share her theater debut with such a talented cast.

Music and orchestra for this production was under the direction of Mitchell Brownell. Noteworthy was the Entr’acte wonderfully played by the eight pit musicians: Brownell, Piano; Glenn Wahl, Percussion; Samuel Mellon, Bass; Daniel Rothman, Woodwinds; Josh Phillips, Guitar, Keeley Johnson, Clarinet and Kayla Kovacs, Trumpet. The pit was located off-stage behind the bow window where it was slightly distracting at times when Brownell was seen in occasional conduction.

This musical usually concludes with the dead faces of the characters encapsulated into the bowels of the plants where the massive plant literally takes over the stage and often the house of the theater, however that was not observed with this production. The final lyrics to “Don’t Feed The Plants,” “Lookout! Here comes Audrey 2. Hold onto your hat and hang onto your soul. Somethin’s comin’ to eat the world whole! Please, whatever they offer you, Don’t feed the plaaants!”

This energetic and fun community theater production is a family must see and continues at the Ray Evan Seneca Theater tonight at 7:30 p.m. and concludes its run Sunday at 2 p.m. The theater, truly a historical treasure to the community of Salamanca, NY is located at 10 Main Street, Salamanca, New York, 14479. For reservations call the BOX OFFICE 945-1003 or purchase tickets online at .ShowClix.com Note: Cash and Check sales only at the Box Office.


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