Little Shop of Horrors

by Meg Currell

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday September 22, 2016

Little Shop of Horrors

Portland Center Stage opened the season with a pitch-perfect production of "Little Shop of Horrors," complete with a flawless cast and an Armory-grown Audrey II. The familiar show, with its playfully violent theme, is the story of a sad-sack florist's assistant, Seymour, whose meteoric rise to fame and fortune and dastardly deeds are all the result of a carnivorous plant.

With well-known songs like "Git It (Feed Me)" and "Suddenly Seymour," the play is comfortable viewing despite its gory plotline. The three women playing The Urchins, Johari Nandi Mackey, Alexis Tidwell, and Ebony Blake deliver impeccable performances as the chorus of "Little Shop of Horrors," explicating and critiquing the plot, always onstage watching or interacting.

As Seymour, Nick Cearley is engaging and endearing, with a bright tenor and boyish charm perfect for the part; he's one of those actors your eye is drawn to whenever he shows up. David Meyers is every bit Mr. Mushnik, the curmudgeon florist whose eyes turn to dollar signs when Audrey II demonstrates its earning capacity.

Jamison Stern is Orin, the sadist (by no measure is he a semi-sadist, as the song suggests) dentist. It would be easy to fall into a caricature of Steve Martin, who so famously played the role in the movie version, but Stern's Orin is more threatening, more dangerous. I saw some Andrew Dice Clay in this performance, a grimy dolt consumed by bloodlust. As the multiple other characters, Stern dons multiple costumes and personas in impressively rapid quick-changes. Stern's sly comic delivery was a welcome presentation to a character that can be overblown.

As Audrey, Gina Milo is the quintessential femme fatale: vulnerable, innocent, abused and convinced she deserves nothing more. Milo's delivery of "Somewhere That's Green," already one of my favorite songs, was so delicately raw that it brought me to tears. The entire audience was silent, hanging on every note. Her gorgeous voice and tremendous acting talent are powerful and moving. She and Cearley are talents to keep an eye on.

The difficult jobs of the voice and body of the plant go to Chaz Rose (voice) and Stephen Kriz Gardner (Audrey II Manipulation). Rose imbues the plant with a desperation that energizes the plot, and combined with the plant's movements, makes the plant one imposing character.

One minor issue to note: I brought a guest who uses a wheelchair, so we sat in wheelchair seating in the very front row. I suspect these seats might have affected the sound quality coming from the stage; I had a lot of trouble hearing the singers over the band, and anything upstage was muffled. Portland Center Stage does a spectacular job making people with disabilities feel welcome, but be forewarned about the location of these seats; you might miss some things onstage.

Portland Center Stage's production of "Little Shop of Horrors" is precise, near perfection, and beautifully acted and performed. Because of Portland Center Stage's recent innovative approaches to standard repertoire including "Our Town" and "Ain't Misbehavin'," I was hoping to see some twist, some different perspective, something I haven't seen before in a production of "Little Shop of Horrors," but this hewed to the standard staging of the play. That said, it is, in fact, the *best* production of the show that I've ever seen, including both movies, so I do enthusiastically recommend that you see it.

"Little Shop of Horrors" runs through Oct. 16 at Portland Center Stage, 128 NW Eleventh Ave. in Portland, OR, 97209. For information and tickets, call 503-445-3700 or visit

Meg Currell is a freelance author based in Portland, where she moved for the coffee and mountain views. With a background in literature and music, she explores dance, concerts and DIY with equal enthusiasm. She is currently at work on a collection of short stories.