By Linda Armstrong
Imagine working at a failing floral shop, not having a chance with a cute co-worker you are crazy about and being an orphan. That was the story of Seymour’s (played by Hunter Foster) life. It seemed bleak, that is until he discovered a rare plant. This plant brought business to the shop because everyone wanted to see it. Seymour becomes famous and eventually gets together with Audrey (played by Kerry Butler), his co-worker and the girl of his dreams.
So what you may wonder is wrong. It sounds like everything is great, right? Wrong. Seymour soon learns that the plant can only grow from consuming human blood. Seymour has to deal with the fact that the plant controls his success or failure and gives it whatever it wants.
Throughout the show, the woes of Seymour and his encounters with this evil plant, which grows to six feet tall, are told by three lovely young ladies-Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette. These characters are played by African-American actresses-DeQuina Moore (Chiffon), Trisha Jeffrey (Crystal) and Carla J. Hargrove (Ronnette). All making their Broadway debuts with this show, the women serve in some cases as the singing narrators, chorus to some songs and generally pop up throughout the show singing in a majority of the scenes. Moore, Jeffrey and Hargrove have phenomenal voices and deliver some wonderful harmonies. They each have a natural stage presence which results in very funny, memorable performances.
Although not seen through a lot of the play, African-American Michael-Leon Wooley performs a major role. He is the chilling voice of the rare plant which Seymour named Audrey II. Yes, this plants talks, it demands to be fed and it goes further than that, it also sings. Wooley has a deep, engaging voice as he delivers a marvelous performance of the diabolical plant.
The puppet of this monstrous plant is brilliantly manipulated by Martin P. Robinson, Anthony Asbury, Bill Remington and Matt Vogel.
Douglas Sills shows his versatility as he amusingly pops up in at least five different roles playing both men and women. He is absolutely wild as the controlling, abusive boyfriend to Audrey.
In addition to the well-known title song, “Little Shop of Horrors”, amusingly sung by Moore, Jeffrey and Hargrove, the show features other great numbers like “Downtown,” sung by the company; “Da-Doo” performed by Seymour, Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette; romantic numbers like “Suddenly Seymour,” sung by Seymour and Audrey; and hilarious numbers such as “Dentist!” sung by Orin-a sadistic dentist, who is dating Audrey at the beginning of the play-and Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette.
“Little Shop of Horrors” is a fantastic show for the entire family. It is filled with laughs from the beginning to the end. The set by Scott Pask, costumes by William Ivey Long and the puppet design of Audrey II by the Jim Henson Company and Martin P. Robinson are perfect. The play features a book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken, choreography by Kathleen Marshall and brilliant direction by Jerry Zaks. The comical timing is priceless.
This play will grow on you very quickly. From the opening scene, you’ll know you are in for a good time. This entertaining evening is waiting for you at the Virginia Theatre. “Little Shop of Horrors” enjoyed a successful off-Broadway run, after seeing it you’ll know why. I’m sure it will also enjoy a successful Broadway run.
African Playwright John Kani Brings A New Work To The Stage
John Kani has written a play exploring the dynamics between Black South Africans who remained in their homeland and risked their lives to lead the struggle against Apartheid and those who returned victoriously to their country after living in exile. Besides penning the work, Kani will star in it along with Esmeralda Bihl and Warona Seane. The play is directed by Janice Honeyman. Performances will begin November 15 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre.
Ralph Carter serves up a Dramatic Feast with “Grandma’s Hands”
The multi-faceted actor Ralph Carter, perhaps best known as “Michael” on the television show “Good Times” and the village’s artist activist, is also a talented, emerging playwright.
At the National Black Theater Festival held this past August in Winston Salem, North Carolina, audiences had the pleasure of listening to, laughing with and enjoying his first play, “Grandma’s Hands.” The play debuted as part of the Readers’ Theatre Series hosted by Garland Lee Thompson of the Frank Silvera Writers’ Workshop.
During the production, Carter wore two hats. He not only wrote the piece, but also starred in the production as Timothy, a young man who is chronicling five generations of women in his family. Carter’s play tenderly and lovingly explores the bond shared by these women.
“Grandma’s Hands” is a down home-style story complete with “saucy” women cooking up a batch of collard greens while they discuss the family’s problems. It gives a clear example of the power, care, concern and love, which are all part of the proverbial “female intuition.”
Late last month, Carter staged a reading at BRIC Studios in downtown Brooklyn for venture capitalists and he says he’s looking forward to a New York premier of the play.
“Mama I Want To Sing Is Back”
“Mama I Want To Sing,” the story of singer Doris Troy, lovingly penned by her sister Vy Higginsen, is back on stage at the Williams CME Church, located at 7th Avenue between 131st and 132nd Streets in Harlem. The production is celebrating its 20th Anniversary and is playing on Saturdays only with 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. shows.
Vy Higginsen tells her family’s story with this production. The audiences meets her father, a devout minister, who taught Doris that she had a vocal gift. Doris struggles with her feelings of wanting to use her voice to perform worldly music, instead of gospel. It’s a touching story with beautiful gospel singing. To get tickets to the show call the MAMA Foundation at 212-280-1045.
The tickets that you purchase will also help the MAMA Foundation to raise $2 million to build a professional theater in Harlem. And, you can be a part of it. The foundation, a 501 C3 is having a Brick by Brick campaign, for $20 you can buy a brick which will display your name engraved on a gold plate, six bricks are $100. You can also buy a seat in the new 300 seat theater, which will be housed at a combined address of 149 W 126th Street, the present home of the foundation and its neighboring Brownstone at 151 W 126th Street. The seats range in price from $1,000 to $2,500 each. To find out more call 212-280-1045.