“Little Shop of Horrors” Slays at the Covington Plaza Amphitheater

Review by Nathan Top of The Carnegie’s “Little Shop of Horrors”

The Carnegie’s “Little Shop of Horrors” is a breath of fresh air. Literally. Staged at the Covington Plaza, there is something primal and innately human about this production. As the audience sits outdoors with the breeze, sun, and backdrop of the Ohio River, an incredible cast enters the arena, draws our attention and tells us a story. 

“Little Shop” is about a perky and poor orphan, Seymour, who works in a plant shop along the 1960’s skid row. Seymour longs for a way out of his unfortunate circumstances and to win the heart of his crush, Audrey. When an unusual plant happens its way into Seymour’s possession, it seems to be the opportunity he needs to change his luck. However, the plant proves to have plans (and an appetite) of its own. 

Performers in Musical
The Carnegie’s Little Shop with Audrey (Maddie Vaughn) and Crystal (Sasha Spitz), Ronnette (Christian Kidd), and Chiffon (Alloria Frayser).

The show first premiered in 1982 with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menkin, a duo who would later work together on Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “Aladdin.” The show is filled with catchy doo-wop numbers, most memorably the title song. 

The cast of “Little Shop of Horrors” at the Covington Amphitheatre.
Michael Lee Jr. (voice) and Jamal Stone (puppeteer) as Audrey 2. Promo images by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

This production is absolutely delightful. Maggie Perrino as director/choreographer gives so much life to this show through strong artistic choices and spirited dance-numbers. As an outdoor production, it is surprising how elegant the show moves. Scenic/technical designer Doug Stock’s set is clever and minimal, leaving so much space for the actors and musicians to do their thing. Special props go out to sound designer Jason Sebastian, who allowed the actors to be heard clearly alongside the pit in an outdoor venue.

Perrino has assembled a small and vibrant cast for this show. Kyle Taylor’s performance as Seymour is charming, goofy, and winningly adorable. Maddie Vaughn sings the heck out of her role, most memorably her beautiful feature “Somewhere That’s Green.“ Ryaan Farhadi and Dan Cohen both showcase serious chops as character actors playing Orin Scrivello, D.D.S. and Mr. Mushnik respectively. Meanwhile, the duo who play the giant plant Audrey 2, Michael Lee Jr. (voice) and Jamal Stone (puppeteer) bring creepy, comedic energy to the role. However, my heart was truly won by the three actors playing the street urchins Crystal (Sasha Spitz), Ronnette (Christian Kidd), and Chiffon (Alloria Frayser). From the opening number, these three street-smart narrators have enough energy to power a rocket and riffs to make God herself clap her hands. Once these three enter the stage, the audience knows this is going to be a great show.
I cannot think of a better production to emerge from live-theater hibernation with than The Carnegie’s “Little Shop of Horrors.” Bring a chair or blanket, pack some food and prepare to be swept away by an incredible cast, crew, and pit. Performances take place now through August 22nd. Tickets can be purchased here.

Nathan Top is a Cincinnati-based playwright and musician. Nathan works as a freelance trumpeter and pianist, performing in big bands, pit orchestras, and pop groups throughout Cincinnati, and is a graduate of CCM.