O’Connell cast nails the joy of ‘Little Shop’

Paul Ward, Ethan O’Donovan and Kyleigh Friel were among the cast in Bishop O’Connell High School’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors. (Photo by Todd Parola with Victor O’Neill)

Love, temptation and . . . monster plants?

Bishop O’Connell High School’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” seamlessly blended the catchy doo-wop tunes of the iconic soundtrack with the bleak plot that the story is famous for.

The show, with story and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken (and based on a low-budget 1960 motion picture), originally premiered Off-Off-Broadway in 1982 before quickly gaining popularity. A film based on the musical was made in 1986, and the show has had numerous Broadway and West End revivals since 2003.

The story follows the hapless botanist Seymour (Ethan O’Donovan) and his friend Audrey (Kyleigh Friel), with whom he secretly is in love with. The two work at a flower shop in the slums that quickly rises to fame after Seymour discovers a new breed of plant (Audrey Somerville) that he names Audrey II. Seymour quickly learns that Audrey II requires blood to survive, and makes many sacrifices to keep up his fame.

An indisputable highlight of the show was O’Donovan as Seymour. His nervous and campy demeanor clearly showed that O’Donovan spent time developing his character into one that the audience would fall in love with from his first note in “Skid Row (Downtown).”

O’Donovan’s vocal stamina was especially present in “Grow for Me” and “Suddenly, Seymour.” The latter song was also a tender example of the relationship O’Donovan and Friel built as two shy lovers.

O’Donovan made the audience forget that they were in a high-school auditorium and created the illusion that they were really with him leading a life of crime to feed a monster plant.

Another prominent performance was Paul Ward as Orin, the sadistic dentist and Audrey’s abusive boyfriend.

Ward was able to capture the audience’s attention from the moment he walked through the aisles in his first entrance. His song “Dentist!” had the audience roaring with laughter as Ward commanded the spotlight and was backed up by three talented Doo-Wop Nurses.

Each over-the-top movement Ward did was deliberate with the tone of each scene he was in, and he was all eyes from the audience  every second he was on stage.

Another showstopper was Audrey Somerville as the Audrey II. From her first entrance from behind the eerie plant puppet, Somerville exuded so much confidence in her vocal talent, with the audience cheering for her after her first long note.

Somerville’s vocal talent was especially present in “Feed Me (Git It)”  and “Suppertime.” The moment that had everyone in awe was when Somerville was laying down on the floor belting a note in “Suppertime” that rang throughout the audience.

Other notable performances included Gwendolyn Zorc, Zoe Forino and Olivia Oudkirk as Chiffon, Ronnette and Crystal, respectively. This trio of street urchins acted as our guide through Skid Row with crisp harmonies that were very pleasing to listen to. Gavin Salinas was also notable as Customer for his comedic timing in the short time he was onstage.

The costuming (led by Minerva Martinez, Amethyst Gutierez and Campbell Hodges) was jaw-dropping. Every urchin in Skid Row was unique, and Audrey II’s costume of interweaving vines was astounding.

On the technical side, Madeline Johnson, Karl Wolf and Emma Bourne must be commended for their use of lighting throughout the show. Spotlights were used to highlight singers, the stage switched to green whenever Somerville commanded the stage, and the lights turned to a deep red whenever Audrey II devoured one of its victims.

Bishop O’Connell High School’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” was full of both tender and thrilling moments that had everyone cheering and humming as the actors left the stage.

The Sun Gazette partners with the Critics and Awards Program (CAPPIES) to present student-written reviews of local high school theater productions.

For more on the initiative, see the Web site at www.cappies.com/nca/.

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