Comedy and crime collide in “Little Shop Of Horrors”

Aliza Gray

Quinnipiac got a little bit scarier this weekend as the hit musical “Little Shop of Horrors” took the stage in the Theater Arts Center.

“Little Shop Of Horrors” is a horror-comedy rock musical that began as an Off-off Broadway show in 1982. The term “Off-off Broadway” is used to characterize productions that began in New York City’s more informal venues and are typically more experimental in style than Off-Broadway productions. In the years that followed the show was produced and ran across the U.S. abroad and was even adapted into a film by the same name in 1986.

Quinnipiac’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” has been in the works for over a year, when director James Noble sat down with Theater Program Director Kevin Daly to discuss what musical they should tackle for the spring 2018 semester.

“It’s about trying to find work that showcases students’ talents but that also challenges them and stretches them a little bit outside of their comfort zone,” Daly said.

This year’s production was surrounded by especially high levels of anticipation, as it is the first of Quinnipiac’s spring musicals to debut in the Theater Arts Center, which opened in fall of 2017.

“It’s a game changer,” Daly said of the Theater Arts Center. “We can do things in this building we could never have done before. I think it will attract prospective students and make our program with our current students that much better.”

As soon as the lights dimmed, the audience’s attention is immediately captured by the appearance of three doo-wop singers, portrayed by Kit Katriel, Regina Gunther and Nicole Mawhirter. The trio sang the play’s title and warned the audience of the horrors that lay ahead. Their dazzling smiles never wavered, as they snapped their fingers and sang sweetly, making their warning much more sinister. All of this irony and intrigue made for a memorable start to a remarkable performance.

The opening scene brings the audience back to the 1960s, inside the seedy floral shop that acts as the backdrop for the vast majority of play’s events. Mushnik’s is located in Skidrow, a squalid section of New York City where, “depression is the status quo.”

On the brink of bankruptcy, Mr. Mushnik, played by senior theater and media studies double major Ryan Devaney, the floral shop owner, is ready to close doors for good. That is until his employee Seymour, played by senior film, television and media arts major Louis Napolitano, introduces him to Audrey II, a peculiar plant he picked up that he’s certain will generate enough curiosity to draw in more customers.

Seymour is right. Audrey II, whom he named after fellow floral shop employee and eventual love interest Audrey, played by sophomore theater and media studies double major Lauren Salatto-Rosenay, peaks everyone’s curiosity. Soon Mushnik’s is busier than ever and Seymour gains recognition for discovery Audrey II, a plant unlike anyone in Skidrow had ever seen before.

Early into the production Audrey II’s dark secret is revealed; it doesn’t feed on sunlight and soil like your typical houseplant. Instead, it has an insatiable thirst for human blood.

Seymour is taken aback when he makes the discovery, but the odd plant is bringing Mushnik’s so much business that he chooses to indulge the homicidal plant.

Soon Seymour begins to kill just to satisfy Audrey II’s ever-growing appetite. The man-eating plant’s first victim is Orin Scrivello, played by sophomore theater major Paul Zopatti, Audrey’s sadistic boyfriend.

Eventually, Mr. Mushnik and even Audrey fall victim to the killer plant’s bloodlust. Seymour, more famous than ever, is driven mad by his guilt. The play concludes after a helpless and regretful Seymour flings himself into Audrey II’s jaws.

The plot of the production might be dark and twisted, but the experience of watching its events unfold is anything but frightening. Throughout the two-hour performance the audience is almost constantly laughing. The black humor of the play is delivered expertly, keeping everyone in stitches.

In terms of comedy, perhaps the most impressive performance is that given by Zopatti.

Throughout the play Zopatti portrays several characters, however, his primary role is as the perverse greaser-turned dentist who dates Audrey prior to being devoured. Zopatti’s animated and outrageous portrayal of Orin Scrivello DDS, and every other role he plays, enthralled the audience.

One of the most exceptional performances was given by an actor who the audience never even saw. Nicholas Fetherston, a freshman theater major acted as Audrey II’s puppeteer. Bringing the “Horror” in the “Little Shop of Horrors” to life was no small feat, as Fetherston spent the two-hour production sweltering inside the murderous plant.

The music of “Little Shop Of Horrors” was a character in and of itself. From the distinctive sound of 1960s rock and roll to the ironically upbeat doo-wop, the soundtrack of the production was center stage.

Each actor gave a spectacular vocal performance, particularly Salatto-Rosenay. She belted a tune about her character Audrey’s intense desire to leave the squalor of Skidrow behind and settle in the suburbs. She sang of mundane things like mowing the lawn, chain link fences and “the smell of Pine Sol,” but in such a stunning way that those everyday sights and smells sounded like the things of fairy tales.

Delightfully quirky and funny, “Little Shop of Horrors” was an unforgettable production carried out by an immensely talented cast and crew.