Just in time for Halloween, the Pasadena Playhouse presents Little Shop of Horrors by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, a tale of greed and love. The show features two Latinx leads and showcases a variety of musical talents including Audrey II being voiced by a female. George Salazar, who is of Filipino and Ecuadorian descent, plays Seymour. MJ Rodriguez, who is part Puerto Rican, makes her playhouse debut starring in the role of Audrey.
Directed by Darryl Archibald, this tale of camp and suspense is reimagined for the 21st century and each one of its technical aspects hits their mark and excels far beyond expectation. From the set design by Dane Laffrey which features a diorama style set piece for Musnik’s Shop, to a full Cadillac car on stage, each detail is crafted masterfully to give the minimalist set life and timeliness. The costume design does the same as well, offering modern renditions of the classic character attire seen in previous versions. This is most evident in the Ronettes, played by Brittany Campbell, Tickwanya Jones, and Cheyenne Isabel Wells who sport cut off shorts and fishnets reminiscent of video vixens from 80s rock videos rather than the over-the-top dresses they are seen wearing in the film version of the musical.
Best known for his role as Michael in the cult sensation musical Be More Chill, George Salazar charms the audience with his awkwardness and witt. Best known for her role as housemother Blanca Evangelista on FX’s Pose, MJ Rodriguez proved why she is an emerging star throughout Hollywood. Noteworthy performances included her rendition of Somewhere That’s Green and her duet with fellow star on Suddenly Seymour. The vocal performances throughout were exceptional and each member of the ensemble perfectly crafted their characters to add a lived-in dynamic to the show that otherwise would be melodramatic. The most notable feature performance was that of Matthew Wilkas as Dr. Orin Scrivello, a dentist and boyfriend of Audrey. His comedic timing was superb and added his own unique spin on this classic character.
In this show, themes of power and greed are spread throughout, but it does a magnificent job staying grounded to the source material and presenting the story as real as possible. This challenge is not taken lightly given the campiness of the script and outlandish things the characters are asked to do. As unrealistic as this story may seem, the Pasadena Playhouse manages to give it relevancy in a world so caught up with these central ideas. Sharing the classic story from a new lens gives newer audiences a chance to enjoy this tale of suspense that displays universal motifs of love and sacrifice. So this Halloween when you’re searching for the best place to get your fright on, look no further than the Pasadena Playhouse latest production, you’ll surely be in for a treat.
The show runs from now until Sunday, October 20th. Tickets for Little Shop of Horrors start at $25 and are available at pasadenaplayhouse.org, by phone at 626-356-7529, and at the box office at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101