There’s a melody stuck in my head that I couldn’t shake off – it’s groovy and catchy in the worst possible way. I say that because even though I know there was more to the show than that, I can only sing”Prologue (Little Shop of Horrors)over and over again. The kind of tune you wish you could hate and yet you love – it’s like chewing gum stuck in your hair or the smell of cotton candy lingering in your clothes after a day at the theme park. .
My face hurt from smiling when I left the Power Center for the Performing Arts after seeing a rendition of the iconic 1986 movie by Franck Oz, “Little Shop of Horrors.“The University of Michigan Student Musical Theater Organization, commonly referred to as MUSKEThas been performing since 1908, and the quality of this semester’s choice made me forget that I was seeing a student production.
The story takes place in a flower shop in skidrow, where an exotic plant turns the customerless store into a national sensation. Each character is a seed in a flower garden that grows with greed and love, resulting in the demise of a growing family due to the same thing that kills them. The play opens and ends with Chiffon, Crystal, and Ronnette, played by second-year School of Music, Drama, and Dance students Arin Francis and Maya McEntyre and SMTD rookie Gilayah McIntosh, respectively, who serve of narrators while being subtle elements in the transitional moments of the story. Their melodies and rhythm became the backbone of the protagonists – Seymour, Audrey, Mr. Mushnik and Orin Scrivello, played by SMTD junior Michael Fabisch, SMTD senior Mackenzie Mollison, LSA second student Dylan Bernstein and SMTD junior Caleb McArthur, which revolve around growing the new exotic plant, the Audrey II, voiced by LSA sophomore Morgan Gomes.
From the moment I stepped foot in the theater, I knew I was going to admire every little detail. The staging was complex and carefully crafted – the inclusion of the exterior and interior of the store allowed the story and with it the internal dramas of all the characters to develop. To the left of the stage, the facade of a building gave context to the store’s characteristic look of floral wallpaper and wooden frames. Within the enclosure of a stage, the narration knew how to develop gracefully thanks to the talent of the actors as well as the musicians.
From the pit, a group of musicians proved that what you can’t see is just as important as what you are. The music, led by SMTD Junior Caleb Middleton, the dances, choreographed by SMTD Junior Maya Boyd, and the acting, led by SMTD Junior Sam Aupperlee, were the mainstays of Saturday’s performance. However, each individual piece behind the production and delivery of the musical was crucial to achieving a phenomenal execution.
I was particularly impressed with McArthur, who played an array of characters – from Orin Scrivello, Audrey’s sadistic dentist boyfriend, to a television presenter and talent agent. His voice, combined with a charismatic and sympathetic game, made the audience burst into laughter and applause on several occasions.
All the actors seemed to be born for their roles, the precision of their performances blurring the line between individuality and acting. There wasn’t a single moment that didn’t seem out of place. On the contrary, the detail and thought behind every move, every prop, and every change to the script seemed intentional. This two-act musical was proof of the University’s admirable talent base – capable of putting on a show that’s not too far off Broadway level. In March 2023, MUSKET will present “A chorus lineand after last night’s performance, I know I will attend.
Daily Arts Editor Cecilia Duran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.