Suddenly, Powder & Wig showed us they can
There is a certain aesthetic the fall musical, (especially the midnight showing of the fall musical), upholds: it is silly, energetic, and fun. Little Shop of Horrors, a rock musical/dark comedy about a talking, man-eating plant was a wonderful choice.
The director Cecilia Cancelieri '11 reminded us that nine days ago, not only had rehearsals not started, but there was nothing: no cast, no set, no costumes, no choreography and no music. The fall musical is not really about chiseled perfection, formal beauty or anything you need to be a pretentious theater person to understand. In fact, at one point the wrong music started playing for a song, and was quickly corrected. Nobody cared. Everyone laughed and cheered.
That is not to say that Little Shop was a sloppy mess. Rather, it was remarkably polished. The songs were catchy and beautifully sung, and the actors were able to stay in character as they sang, maintaining the songs' humorous quality. In point of fact, Audrey (played pitch perfectly by Kendall Hatch '12) sang angelically about how she finally gets to live "Somewhere That's Green" now that Seymour is about to feed her nearly-dead body to the plant.
Three narrating urchins (played by Emma Conroy '11J, Margaret Sargent '14 and Lindsay Garrard '12) gracefully and humorously danced and sang about the sketchy "Skid Row (Downtown)," and events throughout.
Orin the sadistic dentist, (played with maniacal relish by Chris Fraser '12) demanded undying attention every time he took the stage. Shining moments included the number in which he related the story, (through song), of how he came to be a "Dentist!," and also when he laughed himself to death because of a nitrous oxide overdose. However, the humor produced by the dentist's flamboyance was tempered with the discomfort of watching his abusive relationship with Audrey.
Once the strange plant started making money for the shop, Mushnik's (Dan Echt '11 hamming up his character impeccably) comic greed pushed him to propose to Seymour to be his son, which he did through the odd song "Mushnik and Son" (which featured a show stopping tango).
The plant (voiced with seductive coolness by Preston Kavanaugh '11) also sang, in a deep, rich voice, mostly about how it was hungry for human blood ("Feed Me" and "It's Suppertime"), playing up the innuendo and double entendres of the lyrics in his delivery.
The actors, though given only nine days to rehearse, performed catchy and smooth doo-wop tunes, which have been stuck in my head ever since and played convincing characters.
The play was also visually striking, (though silly), with flashy costumes, graceful yet playful choreography, and the giant plant's tendrils, which at one point Seymour cut off with a machete and threw into the audience.
Students translated the dramatic elements of the play while keeping with the playful, carefree aesthetic of the fall musical. For example, we saw the psychological peril Seymour (played so endearingly by Ryan Winter '12) endures: he really is a good person, but his choices are so convoluted and morally blurry. We are asked what we would do in a similar situation, between choosing the right thing and personal fulfillment, even though the play presents us with this question in a highly absurd circumstance.
And in keeping with the tradition of the one week musical, audience interaction is a must. While it would normally be inappropriate to shout during a show, and especially to shout at an actor by actual name, this happened quite a lot during Little Shop, and everyone seemed to think it was normal.
Those involved also added personal touches, such as donning drag, Bro's cameo, and lines like "Mommy needs her smokes," (directed at specific friends in the audience) to the production. The play felt more interactive and more personal as a result of this atmosphere. This musical touched the audience and elicited a stronger, more immediate, more direct reaction from them than most plays could. Undeniably, this feeling of familiarity and personal investment in the play by the audience counts for something in terms of what makes a play good.
In the finale "Don't Feed the Plants," the cast of Little Shop further blurred the lines between where the play ended and reality began, and further exerted their power and zeal on the audience, by physically spreading throughout the theater and pointing aggressively at individuals, belting that whatever these plants promise, never feed them human blood, as they plan to "eat the world whole."
The production upheld a balance between skill and playfulness and between presentation and fun. The result was a wonderful play enriched with a humorous, personal touch.