Photos by Gary Anderson
Review by Jeremy Benson

This weekend and next, the Grace A. Dow Library might just be calling in reinforcements from Dow Chemical, as a giant, man-eating weed takes over the auditorium in the Curtain Call Community Players' production of Little Shop of Horrors.

Based on the 1960 cult-favorite horror film of the same name, the musical follows the hapless Seymour Krelborn from his humble beginnings as urban florist to semi stardom as he discovers a new species of plant. He suggests the peculiar plant—which he has named Audrey II, in honor of his crush and coworker—be used to attract customers to the failing Mushnik’s Skid Row Florists. Sure enough, it's a hit—and only then does Seymour realize the terrible truth: Audrey II doesn't respond to any of the usual plant care and fertilizers; she feeds instead on human blood. Seymour is left to choose: does he ignore the plant's murderous demands, or does he give in to its promises of fame, fortune, and the love of Audrey? The show was written for the stage by Howard Ashman with music by Alan Menken.

As director Jessica McFarland writes in the program, "A favorite for high school and community theaters, the tale … has been produced thousands of times, often with very similar results." However, the Curtain Call Community Theater, or CCC, has taken steps to make their performance stand out. Take the coloring, for instance. As Audrey II gets larger and Mushnik (Andy Harrington) and Seymour (Rodney McFarland) become more successful, the cast and set grow more colorful, swapping a black-and-white motif for more and more shades of green. Certainly, the design choice reflects the desires of the characters—Audrey, played by Brooke Pieschke, sings, "Far from Skid Row, I dream we'll go somewhere that’s green."

Furthermore, they've added a radio announcer (Jack Lipan) to narrate the show, in addition to the classic "Doo-Wops," the Greek tragedy-inspired storytellers played here by Megan Barnard, Sherry Bullock, and Brian Farnham. Farnham doubles as the show's choreographer.

Mostly, what sets the CCC production apart from all the others is the amount of talent crammed onto the library's modest stage. Like the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, the spotlight of 'star of the show' is traded among all of the ensemble’s members. When Rodney McFarland takes his first solo in "Skid Row (Downtown)," jaw muscles have no choice but to drop. Likewise, Brian Church in the role of Orin Scrivello, DDS is as laughter-inducing as the nitrous oxide on his dentist's utility belt. And when puppeteer Jamie Fancey opens Audrey II's carnivorous mouth, Shana Rager's sultry voice comes out, to stun both Seymour and the audience into listening to the plant's every demand.

It's called the Little Shop of Horrors, but the talent is anything but horrific.

Showtimes for Little Shop of Horrors are 7:30 p.m. Friday July 23 and 30, and 2 p.m. Saturday July 24 and 31. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for students. Hosted by the Grace A Dow Memorial Library, 1710 W St. Andrews, Midland, MI. More information about the Curtain Call Community Players at cccplayers.com.

© Jeremy Benson, 2010