AU Players put on “Little Shop of Horrors” from Nov. 14 to Nov. 16, presenting a hilarious musical following a geeky florist, Seymour Krelborn (Bret O'Brien) who raises a bloodthirsty fly trap named Audrey 2 (Catherine Ashley).
The musical stars clumsy Seymour, accompanied by his love interest, Audrey (Brooke Frischer), his beloved Audrey 2 and the complicated flower shop owner Mrs. Mushnik (Emma Dorsch), through Seymour and Audrey 2’s sudden rise to fame out of the measly, urban Skid Row.
“‘Little Shop’ is a known crowd pleaser, which is always fun for both the audience and the cast and crew, but it is also a show that has a bunch of very different characters,” said Molly Moore, co-artistic director of AU Players and the director of “Little Shop of Horrors,” in an email. “I felt that ‘Little Shop’ was the perfect musical to showcase our troupe, with just enough wiggle room for us [Julia Ford and I] to do what we wanted with it.”
The show itself was incredibly well done, from the set to the small lighting changes in between scenes. The gifted cast repeatedly sent the audience into fits of uncontrollable laughter and made them hold their breath in tense moments.
According to Moore, the casting process was unique and full of surprises.
“We were really looking for people who surprised us,” she said. “This was a very young cast, mostly freshmen, and it's because we wanted to cast the people we felt could act honestly. We didn't take year, major or background into account through the first round of auditions. We wanted to be surprised and create a version of each character with the actor playing them.”
Though the entire cast, from the leads to the ensemble, was bursting with talent, one actor that particularly stood out was O’Brien. He embodied Seymour completely and went above and beyond, keeping the audience laughing and capturing their hearts.
“Bret O'Brien just is Seymour. When he came in [to audition], we knew that the role was his,” Moore said. “He put so many hours and so much effort into the role, but he remained his typical positive, hardworking, silly self throughout the entire process.”
Even in moments when the focus was on other characters, Seymour’s presence was felt and known. He brought life to the entire production.
Brooke Frischer has a powerful singing voice that filled the entire room and brought the character of Audrey to life.
“When Brooke Frischer left the audition room we knew that she was our 'smart' Audrey,” Moore said. “In so many productions I had seen Audrey played as a 'dumb-blonde' type, but with Brooke I believed she was Audrey, but she also brought wit, sensitivity and incredible talent to the role.” The change to a witty, smart Audrey brought much more depth to the story.
In the original production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” the character Mushnik is a man. After casting, Moore made the deliberate choice to cast Dorsch as “Mrs. Mushnik.” Dorsch captured the character perfectly, bringing humor and drama to the production that would have been lacking if it had been a Mr. Mushnik instead. For example, in the song “Mushnik and Son,” Dorsch’s dancing was a huge crowd pleaser that was especially effective because of what she as an actress brought to the character. Her attitude and wit, accompanied with her strong voice and presence, made her an unforgettable addition to the cast.
“We didn't know going into casting that Mushnik was going to be a woman. When we saw Emma, we knew that she had to be our Mushnik,” Moore said in an email. “Once the rehearsal process started, she and I sat down and discussed who Mushnik was in this production. Turns out, our Mushnik was a spinster, drama-loving romantic. Now, I can't see her any other way.”
When asked about her proudest moment throughout the production, Moore said that it was the last show, because she could sit back and watch all of the work they had done over the rehearsal process. She said that she was particularly proud of Ashley, who “made a leading role out of a vegetable” in the character Audrey 2.
“In one moment of the show, during 'Feed Me,' I remembered the first rehearsal of that song with Cat Ashley and Bret,” she said. “It was such a difficult number, and I wasn't sure how even the two incredible actors I cast would pull it off. Watching it during the last run I was in tears; they had done everything I had given them and more.”
“Little Shop of Horrors” managed to bundle comedy, drama and horror into a beautiful package. The spirit of the cast and crew, from the enthusiasm in the opening number down to the careful construction of the set, was evident and made the show worth every second.