There’s a melody stuck in my head that I have not been able to shake — it is groovy and catchy in the worst way. I say that because while I know there was more to the show than this, I can only sing “Prologue (Little Shop of Horrors)” over and over again. The kind of tune you wish you hated and yet you love — it’s like bubblegum stuck on your hair or the lingering smell of cotton candy in your clothes after a day at the theme park.
My face hurt from smiling when I left the Power Center for the Performing Arts after seeing a rendition of the iconic 1986 film by Frank Oz, “Little Shop of Horrors.” The University of Michigan’s Student Musical Theater Organization, commonly known as MUSKET, has been putting on shows since 1908, and the quality of this semester’s choice made me forget that I was seeing a student production.
The story unfolds in a flower shop in Skid Row, where an exotic plant turns the clientless store into a national sensation. Each character is a seed in a garden of flowers that grows with greed and love alike, leading to the demise of a family that grows strong by virtue of the very same thing that kills it. The play opens and closes with Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette, played by School of Music, Theatre & Dance sophomores Arin Francis and Maya McEntyre and SMTD freshman Gilayah McIntosh, respectively, who serve as narrators as well as being subtle elements in the transitory moments of the story. Their melodies and rhythm became the backbone for the protagonists — Seymour, Audrey, Mr. Mushnik and Orin Scrivello, played by SMTD junior Michael Fabisch, SMTD senior Mackenzie Mollison, LSA sophomore Dylan Bernstein and SMTD junior Caleb McArthur, who revolve around the growth of the new-found exotic plant, the Audrey II, voiced by LSA sophomore Morgan Gomes.
From the moment I set foot in the theater, I knew I was going to admire every little detail. The mise en scène was intricate and carefully crafted — the inclusion of both the exterior and the interior of the shop allowed the story and, with it, the internal dramas of all the characters to expand. To the left of the stage, a building’s facade gave context to the shop’s characteristic look of floral wallpaper and wooden frames. Within the confines of a stage, the narrative managed to develop itself gracefully through the talent of actors and musicians alike.
From the pit, an ensemble of musicians proved that what isn’t seen is just as important as what it is. The music, led by SMTD junior Caleb Middleton, the dances, choreographed by SMTD junior Maya Boyd, and the acting, directed by SMTD junior Sam Aupperlee, were the pillars on which Saturday’s performance stood. However, every individual piece behind the production and delivery of the musical was crucial to achieving a phenomenal execution.
I was especially impressed by McArthur, who played an array of characters — from Orin Scrivello, Audrey’s sadist dentist boyfriend, to a TV presenter and a talent agent. His vocals, paired with charismatic and personable acting, made the audience burst into laughter and applause on multiple occasions.
All the actors seemed to have been born for their roles, the accuracy of their performances blurring the line between selfhood and acting. There was not a single moment that felt out of place. Rather, the detail and thought behind every movement, every prop and every modification in the script felt intentional. This musical in two acts was evidence of the University’s admirable talent base — capable of putting on a show that is not too far from Broadway level. In March 2023, MUSKET will be showcasing “A Chorus Line,” and after last night’s performance, I know I will be attending.
Daily Arts Writer Cecilia Duran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.