Richard Marsh/Dearborn Press and Guide/May 17, 1990
Finales of well-stage musicals will usually either have your adrenaline flowing from the excitement or leave you a bit sad from the somber ending, depending on the show. They seldom leave you in a state of awe, with your only comment being, “Wow!” The ending of Henry Ford Community College’s “Little Shop of Horrors” was a finale to end all finales. George Popovich, director and special effects designer, gave the audience everything he could as far as special effects went to close the show.
“Little Shop of Horrors” is a musical parody of the science-fiction and horror films of the 1950’s. In the story, a man-eating plant plots to take over the world, starting its quest in Skid Row. Popovich’s aim with the show was to achieve an effect similar to the kind of 1950’s movies the play makes fun of. He achieved his goal with near perfection. There were even a few cheese-ball effects characteristic of some of the genre films.
From the play’s start, the audience members could perceive this was not going to be your typical musical. Just before the overture started, the lights in the auditorium flickered on and off, an effect similar to that found in old sci-fi films denoting the arrival of aliens.
The actors used contrived voices for their roles. The performances were somewhat different than normally found in “Little Shop.” Mark Powell was a thinner, more energetic version of Mushnik, while Erika Milkie was not quite as soft-spoken and helpless as the traditional Audrey. Ron D. Kraai, who played Seymour, was probably the closest to the established portrayal of a character. Two walk-on roles which had completely new interpretations were the customer who asks where Audrey came from (Shawn Balentine) and the man from the William Morris Agency (Adam Lux). While these performers were different, they all worked.
There were winking references to many old sci-fi movies including “The Day The Earth Stood Still, The Blob, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and many others. The audience seemed spellbound by the show. When the final 40-foot wide Audrey II is revealed for the show’s finale complete with its entourage of singing victim faces entwined in its leaves, the audience goes nuts. Popovich is responsible for engineering the enhancments to Audrey II, especially the giant tendrils that are each operated by a human operator.
This is definitely the best production offered in the Dearborn area this season. Don’t leave before the grand finale.
- Chiffon: Renata Rhodes
- Crystal: Amy Armstrong
- Ronette: Heather Capote
- Seymour: Ron D. Kraai
- Audrey: Erick Milke
- Mushnik: Mark Powell
- Orin: Jeff Simms
- Audrey II Voice: Tom Downy
- Main Audrey II Operator: Tim Martin
- Audrey II Assistants: Suzanna Radwan, Lasonia Erving
- Customer: Shawn Balentine
- Wino, Bernstein, Patrick Martin: Adam Lux
- Bag Lady #1: Donna Montgomery
- Bag Lady #2, Mrs. Luce: Jennifer Sourbeck
- Cop: Dan Taylor