‘Little Shop of Horrors’ captures audiences with prickly performance

Working for Mushnik Flower Co., florist Seymour finds a ruthless plant he calls Audrey II who craves flesh.

By C. Aileen Blaine

Youngstown State University’s department of theater and dance is opening a show sure to hold captive audiences’ interest with its latest production of “Little Shop of Horrors” at Ford Theater this weekend. 

The plot follows Seymour, an unassuming florist who works for Mushnik Flower Co. He discovers a strange, bloodthirsty plant, which he calls Audrey II after his coworker with whom he is enamored. As the plant grows and attracts more business to the flower shop, Seymour struggles to supply it with the flesh it craves. This staging takes the original setting of a 1960s skid row and modernizes it to the 1980s, with references to Cleveland instead. 

Nathanael Montgomery, a senior BFA theater major, plays the comically evil dentist Orin Scrivello, DDS. Montgomery said “Little Shop of Horrors” is one of his favorite classics, and he’s looking forward to having fun with the role on stage.

“The song ‘Dentist!’ — and this is such an exciting song — brings the house down every time. We already know that it’s going to be an exciting one, and I get to be the one to sing it,” Montgomery said. “People need to come see this, it’s going to be a treat.”

The show features a collaboration of efforts from multiple departments, including the visual and dramatic arts department, the Musical Theatre Ensemble and the department of theater and dance. 

Guest director Ian Silverman said preliminary work on the show began at the end of the spring 2021 semester and has been an ongoing project since, with lots of behind-the-scenes preparations — such as set construction and line readings — taking place well in advance of opening night. 

One of the more tedious preparations was the construction of the man-eating plant. Audrey II combines puppetry and live action performance, allowing the recently enhanced puppetry program at the university a chance to shine. The plant operates with the help of three puppeteers controlling its three hungry mouths, and a slide leading backstage allows performers to be “consumed.”

“Figuring out the safety of [the slide] and building that mechanism was quite challenging, but it’s really cool to see,” Silverman said. 

The show’s leading roles are double-cast, with Adam Dominick and Samantha Gurd playing opposite each other on select nights and Kyle Hudson and Elise Vargo on the others. 

Hudson, a musical theater sophomore, said he’s looking forward to co-starring with Vargo, a good friend of his in real life. 

“It’s just very fun to get to connect with her and feel that chemistry without really having to try,” he said. 

Dominick, a musical theater senior, said one of the bigger challenges was having half the time on-stage to work on his lines as Seymour.

“I do some of my best memorization when I’m actually on stage,” he said. “Luckily, Seymour is a little bit closer to who I am in real life, so it’s not as hard to gauge the character.”

The development design draft shows the behind the scenes to Audrey II’s construction.

Tommy DeLuca, a junior musical recording and musical theater double major, plays Mushnik, the cantankerous owner of the flower shop. DeLuca said it’s been almost two years since his last theatrical performance. As a transfer student, this is his first onstage role at YSU.

“Here, I’ve just been the sound engineer for the shows,” DeLuca said. “Getting back into acting finally onstage, it’s been kind of a challenge to relearn, ‘Okay, this is how I’m supposed to do this,’ or ‘This is what I’m supposed to do here’ … While it’s been fun, it’s also been very, very challenging.” 

The shows occur on the following times and dates at Bliss Hall’s Ford Theater:

  • Friday, Oct. 29: 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 30: 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 31: 2 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 5: 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 6: 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 7: 2 p.m.

Adult tickets are $16. Tickets cost $8 for non-YSU students, YSU faculty and staff with valid ID, YSU alumni, senior citizens, Penguin Club members and groups of eight or more. Current YSU student tickets are free. Tickets can be found at www.ysu.tix.com, or call 330-941-3105 for more information.