REVIEW: Little Shop of Horrors

2:00pm • Sunday, November 20, 2022 • Power Center

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to experience Little Shop of Horrors, presented at the Power Center this weekend by MUSKET. The performance began before the lights dimmed, as Chiffon (Arin Francis), Crystal (Maya Mcentyre), and Ronnette (Gilayah McIntosh) wandered the auditorium, interacting with the crowd. Eventually they disappeared backstage, only to reappear along with the rest of the cast, to open the performance with “Skid Row.” From that point onward I was continually impressed by the talent and personality of each actor. Forming the chorus, Francis, Mcentyre, and McIntosh were reliable throughout their performance both for their solid harmonies and for their affectionately eye-rolling reactions to Seymore and Audrey. In addition to his role as Orin Scrivello, Audrey’s abusive boyfriend, Caleb McArthur scrambled onstage in at least four other mini-roles, creating fresh personas for each. I appreciated the way that Michael Fabisch threw himself into the awkwardness required for the role of Seymore. And Mr. Mushnik, played by Dylan Bernstein, was a perfect drama queen.

My favorite human role was definitely Audrey, played by Mackenzie Mollison. In the beginning of the show, Audrey is trapped in an abusive relationship with a sadistic dentist, and while in “Somewhere that’s Green” she dreams of living a simple life in a suburban development, she doesn’t believe she deserves to be loved by someone kind. Mollison brought humor to the role with her excellent comedic timing without oversimplifying the show’s darker themes of abuse and self-hatred. Her powerful voice seemed subtly restrained throughout the performance to reflect Audrey’s situation: occasionally bursting out in full spirit but quickly stifled again.

The shameless Audrey II, however, voiced by Morgan Gomes, resisted all restraints. Gomes, while only appearing onstage in person for the final curtain call, defined the performance with her spectacular voice. The plant only begins speaking mid-way through the performance, but when Gomes’ voice finally echoed through the theater, I saw jaws drop.

Engineering the evil plant itself is notoriously difficult, and MUSKET pulled it off with humor and style. In its first form, the Audrey II was a single, tentacle-like shoot with a little flower at the tip that Seymore slung around the shop during “Grow for Me.” Upon the plant’s entrance, I figured this first edition was too small for the team to have bothered animating–but to my surprise, in response to the characters’ lines, it drooped, perked up, and even nodded, all without any visible assistance or puppeteering from onstage. As Audrey II continued to grow throughout the show, I never noticed the stage crew replacing it or making adjustments, which is doubly impressive for such a large and mobile prop. The choice to have Audrey II consume its prey by sucking them into its stem resulted in some entertaining visuals: because the shape of the plant was vaguely humanoid, we seemed to watch Orin, Mr. Mushnik, Audrey, and finally Seymore disappear between the plant-being’s “legs.”

Overall, a big congratulations to everyone involved in putting together this fun rendition of Little Shop of Horrors. I encourage everyone who missed the performance to consider buying tickets to MUSKET’s winter semester show, A Chorus Line. I can guarantee that I will be in the audience.

PREVIEW: Little Shop of Horrors

What: a comedy horror musical, brought to UM by the student theater company MUSKET

When: 

  • Friday, November 18, 8:00pm
  • Saturday, November 19, 8:00pm
  • Sunday, November 20, 2:00pm

Where: Power Center

Tickets: $7 for students, $13 for adults, available online, at the MUTO ticket office, by phone, or at the box office 1 hr before the performance. More details linked here.

Little Shop of Horrors is a Broadway musical in which Seymore, a nerdy plant shop assistant, pines hopelessly after his coworker, Audrey. The plot revolves around a strange plant, named Audrey II, which Seymore discovers will bring business and popularity to the failing shop–if only it is fed with flesh and blood! The show is produced by MUSKET, one of the university’s longest-running student theater companies. The organization produces two shows each year in the Power Center, and has tackled both classic and contemporary performances such as West Side Story, Oklahoma, Hairspray, and Rent. Scanning photos of past performances, I am blown away by their evident production value, and I can see how MUSKET represents a Michigan legacy of passionate, skilled students and their dedication to the arts. I look forward to getting a glimpse of this legacy during the Sunday performance tomorrow, and hope others will consider picking up tickets at MUTO for the darkly funny, campy experience that is Little Shop of Horrors.

PREVIEW: MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW

That’s a lot of “MOSCOW”s in the title! Let’s abbreviate, shall we?

WHAT: A performance of the play “MOSCOW x 6” by UM’s own Department of Theatre & Drama!
WHERE: the Arthur Miller Theater inside the Walgreen Drama Center (that pretty light green building down the road when you get off the bus at Pierpont!)
WHEN: See all showtimes here! I’ll be catching tomorrow night’s 8pm show. This show is on the October 1-15 Passport to the Arts — you can redeem a passport for a FREE ticket at the League Ticket Office!

Besides being intrigued by this play’s unusual title (it sounds like it’s shouting at me!), I was curious about the blurb that states: “It’s Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” for the Fleabag generation. A deftly comedic (and undisputedly raunchy) exploration of unchecked privilege.”

Who is Chekhov? What exactly is the Fleabag generation? I wondered. If you’re wondering too, don’t worry I’ll share my research.

“Three Sisters” is a 1901 play by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov that follows the lives of, you guessed it, three sisters. They feel trapped in their rural Russian town and long to move back to the big city of Moscow where they grew up.

“Fleabagging” is a dating phenomenon named after the hit dark comedy television series “Fleabag” created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. It’s repeatedly dating the “wrong” person, careening from bad relationship to bad relationship, gravitating toward those who you know will never be “the one.”

Into this mix comes Halley Feiffer, a playwright who decided to reimagine “Three Sisters” for a contemporary audience. Add a splash of black comedy, a sprinkle of feminism, a slab of social critique and class commentary, and you get “MOSCOW x 6” — a play that seems startlingly relevant to our world today.

I am incredibly intrigued to see how our theater students will interpret this nuanced piece, especially given that the ongoing war in Ukraine has colored public perspectives of Russia and its crown jewel: Moscow. There will definitely be no shortage of interesting discussions after the show.

Note the following content warnings for this performance. Take care of yourself!
Contains suicidal ideation/mental illness; physical violence; homophobic language; depicted sexual content; foul language; misogyny; alcohol abuse

PREVIEW: Tales of the Maya Skies

 

Have you ever been to a planetarium? Did you think the dome theaters were only for looking at the stars? Have you ever wondered what is possible in this science museum theater?
To really push your imaginations on what can be done here, you might want to check out the latest show at the Museum of Natural History: Tales of Maya Skies. It is a show combining science, cosmology, and myth and how Mayan scholars developed a sophisticated understanding of astronomy, architecture, and mathematics.
If you love astronomy, ancient civilizations, planetariums, or unique media, this might be the show for you!
This show happens every weekend so you have plenty of time to enjoy this awesome exhibit.

 

This show is also available in Spanish on Saturdays!

REVIEW: Home

# Warning! Spoilers!

Welcome to the review of a performance that I think I will remember for the longest time. Was it the best play ever? I liked it, but I have yet many to come that I haven’t seen yet, so it’s hard to say – so how can I say that I will remember it the most? Because I’m pretty sure that there won’t be many plays where I’m invited to the stage!

The play started with the mimes of the actors where the construction workers were actually building a house. First, it was a steel frame that looked like more of an art exhibition than a house. Then, they started adding walls, doors, and other appliances and wow, it worked! Personally, I was impressed that they managed to make a working tab on stage – where would the water supply have come from? After the house was physically constructed, the actors started to make it a ‘home’ by acting out daily life situations on stage – showering, sleeping, and displaying different emotions. The actors had diverse ethnicity and age, and they acted out different family/friends relationships among them. After the house was mostly constructed, they moved in and out of view through all sorts of places, including the refrigerator and the closet in the wall! The stage design was so interesting to design the route of actors in such a way. There were also light and sound effects to make the construction really seem like home – my favorite was the one where they created night and day by moving a bright light source from the bottom to the top of the stage, hidden away from the audience’s view, to mimic sunlight. The light was a warm yellow-orange color just like the morning sun and it draw long shadows against the structure of the house. That shadow made the scene look so cozy and peaceful, representing the warmth of a home.

The play got more interesting when a young boy actor put on a mask and came down the stage to invite an audience to the stage. He suddenly became the host of the house and greeted every actor as they showed up with gifts to a party hosted in the house. I was wondering if he was an actor secretly in disguise as the audience because everything was so smooth, but my curiosity was solved soon after as I was invited to the stage as well! The boy showed up with a wine and asked me whether I like a party. I said yes and boom! I was wearing a Santa costume and dancing around the stage. The secret was that the actors were giving instructions to the audience on stage. More than 30 people came upstage throughout the show. I’ve never seen anything like it-it was really an innovative performance.

In all, I think the play nailed its proposal to show what a home is consisted of – physical structure, coziness, old personal items, people living and interacting in it with diverse emotions, stories, and memories. Each was explored without breaking up the flow of the performance and delivered vividly. They were emphasized in the last scene where they were gone and only a fan and ripped plastic cloths were flailing in the wind – the emptiness showed that they were what’s making a house a home. Even without the audience coming up stage, this performance was highly delightful to watch and wonder, yet coming up stage made the event more special. Don’t miss your chance if it hits Ann Arbor again. I HIGHLY recommend this performance.

P.S. This will be my last post writing as a Student Art reviewer for this blog. It was great to deliver the news and reviews about local art and performances around here. Keep your love for arts and go check out the local art scenes as much as possible! Go Blue!

REVIEW: Somebody’s Children

Somebody’s Children, a tale of children who lives just next door to the land of the fairy tale, Disney land, but whose life isn’t so fairy-tale-like, asks the audience whether it’s really ok that some people are actually living in sucn unstable homes and clearly provides the answer-it’s not Ok. The play is written by José Casas, assistant professor at the University of Michigan, and the actors were consisted of students in SMTD. The setting takes place in a run-down motel just outside Disneyland, and while their personal stories are told in beautifully and powerfully written vignettes, the sorrows in characeters’ lives expands into a problem of social structure by the contrast of their unsafe living place and children who laughs happily in Disneyland, which is so close to where they are living. The stage design made this interesting setting even more clear – there was a huge and gorgeous sign that spells out ‘Disneyland’ on the right side of the stage. Glowing white, the sign had an aura that made sure that the audience was not missing it, but the actual shape of Disneyland was not shown; as if symbolizing that the real Disneyland did not existed to children living in the motel. With this direct contrast, the deprived feeling and anger that the characters are feeling is strongly delivered while raising the point that they could have also been the careless children who have a great time in Disneyland, and highlighting the brutallity of reality in which the children were pushed into. They were somebody’s ‘Children’. Their sorrow is valid and raw, but they are children, who should be kept away from those things. Who are to protect them? the play asks.

I want to highlight the actor’s amazing performances – as mentioned before, the play mainly consited of vignettes, so the lines were symbolic and poetic, rather than straight to the point. The actors expressed out the emotion that the children is reciting the vignette so well; the sad but happy, nostelgic look of a girl who danced with her imaginary quinceañera dress, how two boys exchanged roles to between a police man that stopped them on a night’s walk to get some ice and the boys who got pinned down even though they did nothing wrong swiftly was just awestrucking. Production was amazing as well – using sitting actors as poles to put up police line was not only visually intersting but also symbolized that the children in the motel were deeply embedded in all the tragedy happening in the place.

In all, Somebody’s Children was a beautiful and socially-conscious play that used experimental lines-vignettes-to deliver the theme and did it, not over-dramatically but emotionally affluently. Highly recommend to anyone looking for performances that speaks about the modern world.