Josiah Martin | Arts & Entertainment Editor
This past weekend, on Feb. 23, Pittsburgh Public Theater wrapped up its month-long production of Little Shop of Horrors, the b-movie inspired classic musical from Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. As a Little Shop fan, I was glad to see the show’s classic numbers done justice — but more than anything, I was blown away by the stellar performances of the small cast.
The set design fully utilized the O’Reilly Theater’s small space. The back wall was converted into a Skid Row apartment building, with different images and colors projected onto it to add atmosphere to musical numbers. A large set of sliding doors gave way to the wallpapered interior of Mushnik’s flower shop, which emerged onto the stage for scenes featuring beloved man-eating plant Audrey II.
Audrey II was voiced by Monteze Freeland and puppeteered by J. Alex Noble. The two of them make a great pair, as the plant was the same vibrant, animated, show-stealing, back-talking monster that audiences have come to know and love. The two of them worked perfectly opposite the production’s Seymour Krelborn, portrayed by Philippe Arroyo.
Arroyo played the perfect Seymour — a shy, clumsy character with paradoxically proficient vocal chops. Arroyo took “Feed Me (Git It),” the number that signifies the turning point into the show’s bloodier half, and went absolutely full throttle. Sitting front row, I was genuinely worried Arroyo may have been on the verge of exploding. He did a Jerry Lee Lewis impression, banging on imaginary piano keys at the flower shop’s counter, jumping around the set and nearly singing the veins out of his neck.
Seymour was accompanied, of course, by Audrey, portrayed by Lauren Marcus. Marcus nailed the classic breathy Audrey voice, a mainstay of Little Shop owed to actress Ellen Green who originated the role.
The production was notably more comedic than some others; a few scenes’ more emotional moments were broken up with laughs. This is largely due to the fantastic dynamic between Marcus, Arroyo and Marc Moritz, who played Mr. Mushnik. Moritz and Arroyo’s complex dance number in “Mushnik and Son” had the audience in hysterics, and Moritz perfectly shows Mushnik’s cynical-yet-paternal relationship with the rest of the cast.
Patrick Cannon carried the role of Orin Scrivello, DDS in the most physically comedic performance of the whole production. The character’s spasmodic movement as he takes in a fatal amount of nitrous oxide in “Now (It’s Just the Gas)” was impressive to behold. Cannon additionally played a handful of other roles, his impressive range on display as he disappeared for two near-instant costume changes in “The Meek Shall Inherit.”
The show opens and closes with the ‘60s girl-group inspired greek chorus, helmed in this production by Abigail Stephenson, Tavia Riveé and Melessie Clark. The trio perfectly brought the fast banter and powerful vocals necessary for those roles.
All in all, this production was peak Little Shop. It was hilarious, every musical number retained the energy and emotion the fans expect and the cast embodied the classic roles in every second of this fantastic show.