If you got really into plants during the pandemic, now's the time to go make sure that none of them are actually bloodthirsty aliens in disguise.
Consider this an urgent reminder from Theatre Three, which is currently staging Howard Ashman and Alan Menkin's campy horror musical Little Shop of Horrors au natural at Samuell-Grand Amphitheater.
Perhaps you grew up watching the 1986 Rick Moranis/Ellen Greene film on VHS, or maybe this is your first run-in with Audrey II — no matter. Director Joel Ferrell and his wonderfully diverse cast ensure that all audience members have so much fun visiting Skid Row that they feel comfortable enough to shout, "Don't do it, girl!" at pivotal moments.
This sense of polished relaxation infuses the entire production, which is staged on Shakespeare Dallas' Romeo & Juliet set with modifications designed by Jeffrey Schmidt. The production also makes excellent use of Aaron Johansen's creepy lighting design and Natalie Rose Mabry's tattered and tacky (that's a compliment) costumes.
The cast is having fun, and it shows. Lee Walter is an inspired choice as Audrey, the shop girl with terrible taste in men. They ground the show with Alajeandro Saucedo as the sweet and meek Seymour, a "lucky" schmuck who happens on a strange and interesting new plant species during a random total eclipse, whom he names for his crush.
The flytrap-looking plant begins to bring Seymour good fortune, propping up the grimy flower shop he toils away at and prompting admiring glances from Audrey, his dream girl.
But of course there is a price, and that price is blood. Human blood, specifically, and when Seymour becomes too anemic to feed the plant himself he gets tangled up in murder as a means to keep his lucky streak alive.
At first, opportunities present themselves almost too easily. First down the hatch is Audrey's odious boyfriend, a maniacal dentist played with slick sadism by Parker Gray. The always-impressive Gray makes several cameos throughout the show, each more hilarious and unique than the last.
But when the evil plant chows down on Seymour's boss and adoptive father, Mr. Mushnik (Bob Reed), the morals start a-rumblin'.
All of this is commented upon in harmony by a street-wise Greek chorus of Nikka Morton, Cherish Robinson, and Audra Scott, who wow with vocals as strong as their improv choices.
Also to be vocally commended is Rodney M. Morris, the velvet tongue behind Audrey II, who is controlled at ever-growing sizes by puppeteer Ben Stegmair.
Music director Cody Dry, who wowed with his talent and versatility in Theatre Three's The Music Man, here leads an onstage band that's equal parts punk, rock, and game-for-anything inclusion in the action.
At a swift two hours (including intermission), the production delivers all the vicious vibes an audience could want around Halloween. Just remember: don't feed the plants.
Theatre Three's production of Little Shop of Horrors runs at Samuell-Grand Amphitheater through October 31.