ON STAGE DAYTON REVIEW: Little Shop of Horrors (Playhouse South)

Cari Meixner and Desmond Thomas

Cari Meixner and Desmond Thomas in Little Shop of Horrors (Photo by Rob Breving)

Terrific vocalists Desmond Thomas and Cari Meixner are the absolutely delightful beacons of Playhouse South’s decent “Little Shop of Horrors,” set in the 1950s on Skid Row and written in 1982 by composer Alan Menken and lyricist-librettist Howard Ashman based on the 1960 film of the same name.

Under the direction of Jenni Cypher, Thomas, a nice case for non-traditional casting, and Meixner, so kind and touching, were born to play ill-fated lovebirds Seymour and Audrey, florist shop co-workers whose affection for each other grows as big as the infamously blood-thirsty plant Audrey II (amusingly voiced by music director Jim Brown and operated by set designer Kurt Cypher) that ultimately comes between them. By the team this special duo reaches their truly sincere rendition of “Suddenly Seymour” you’ll wish Ashman created a different outcome. Individually, the open, honest Thomas doesn’t lose one ounce of tenderness as he copes with the problems and popularity that comes his way on his quest for revenge. He makes it clear that Seymour’s seedy actions are simply out of overwhelming concern for his beloved, battered Audrey, sentiments beautifully upheld in Thomas’ pleasantly pensive solo within “The Meek Shall Inherit.” He’s also great at the outset, notably fueling the powerful, spine-tingling “Skid Row (Downtown)” with meaningful urgency. Meixner primarily makes her mark musically, particularly delivering the gorgeous ballad “Somewhere That’s Green” with a sweet, music box delicacy that immediately grabs the heart.

Elsewhere, TC Schreier, in his best role to date, accents his personable portrayal of florist shop proprietor Mr. Mushnik with a comical shuffle. Zach King, an enjoyably twisted Orin Scrivello, wisely avoids the temptation to go over the top in “Dentist” and “Now (It’s Just the Gas).” Sarah-Grace Griswold (Ronette), Megan Rademacher (Crystal) and Erika Rogers (Chiffon) offer ample attitude but have a tendency to become pitchy and overly forceful in their R&B inflections. Angie Thacker and Jamal Cann offer humorous support in various roles.

The contributions of choreographer Mackensie Vonderbrink, costumer Maggie Carroll and lighting designer/technical director Jason Vogel are noteworthy. Conductor/keyboardist Brett Greenwood leads a small but steady four-piece orchestra.

“Little Shop of Horrors” continues through March 9 at the Clark Haines Theatre (Kettering Board of Education Building) 3750 Far Hills Ave., Kettering. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Act One: 55 minutes; Act Two: 37 minutes. Tickets are $13 for adults, $11 for seniors and military and $8 students. Call 1-888-262-3792 or visit www.playhousesouth.org. The show contains adult language and themes.

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avatar About Russell Florence, Jr.

Russell Florence, Jr. is a member of The American Theatre Critics Association and The Drama League. In addition to his role as arts and culture editor of Dayton City Paper and theater critic for Dayton City Paper and Impact Weekly, he served as a Dayton Daily News freelance writer and editorial page contributor. He has also written features for such theater publications as Spotlight Ohio and The Sondheim Review. He attended over 30 Broadway/Off-Broadway productions during the 2014-15 season. Overall, he has seen over 400 Broadway shows.