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“Little Shop of Horrors” at A.L. Brown High School

blumey student critics
T. Ortega Gaines - ogaines@charlotteobserver.com
Katie Iacovelli

A.L. Brown High School gave a fine performance of the classic dark comedy “Little Shop of Horrors.” This well-liked play teaches the important lesson that no amount of fame and fortune is worth sacrificing one’s morality, and this interpretation did not fail to deliver the message.

Seymour Krelborn, a clumsy and anxious flower shop employee and orphan, has a meager existence on filthy Skid Row but longs for a more purposeful life with his crush, Audrey. Audrey (Alexys Carrasquillo) struggles with an abusive relationship while earning a living at Mushnik’s flower shop and pining for her co-worker, Seymour.

One day, Seymour suddenly discovers a strange plant (which he nicknames Audrey II) that clandestinely has an appetite for blood. The plant piques the curiosity of the public and inspires Seymour’s rise to fame, but it forces this well-meaning man to make less-than-upstanding sacrifices along the way.

Tyler Johnson gave a commendable and honest performance as the insecure, neglected Seymour. His vocal talent and physicality shone, and he made the character’s quirks, triumphs and torments believable. This was especially true during “Grow for Me,” a well-choreographed piece in which Seymour begs Audrey II to bloom for him and discovers the plant will be satisfied only with blood.

Likewise, I enjoyed the inventive staging of “Somewhere That’s Green.” Audrey describes her ideal suburban world of comfort, while that dream world is depicted on the other side of the stage by Seymour coming home to Audrey’s double. In the “Dentist” number, girls danced around with paper teeth, until they formed a mouth that moved along with the lyrics. “Mushnik and Son” made for great physical comedy between Johnson and Anthony Sims’ Mr. Mushnik, the controlling shop owner.

Harmonies were usually on point. The cast sounded best when performing as a group. Unfortunately, the heavy drums and lack of a microphone system meant lines and lyrics were sometimes lost to the audience. Sometimes, too, singers had problems with the rhythms.

Alexys Carrasquillo could have dived deeper into the character of Audrey, but she gave a moving performance in the somber final scene of the play. Phillip Fontenot commanded the stage as the aggressive dentist Orin, Audrey’s cruel and possessive boyfriend. He later gave a similarly threatening persona to Audrey II, using only his voice.

The set functioned well. A spinning platform was used for the main stage; two brick facades sat on either side of the main platform, one of which was Audrey’s door. The actors filled the space throughout the entire play, and characters’ movements always seemed to be purposeful.

There could have been a better variety of costumes, as there were few changes, but most choices suited the characters (such as Audrey’s red dress and gold heels). Lighting choices always fit the mood: Whenever a death was near, the theater would darken, and the lights would burn dark red.

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