Little Shop of Horrors Brings the B Movie Classic to Life at the Guthrie Theater

Production Photo

Last night The Little Shop of Horrors opened as the summer musical at the Guthrie Theater in Downtown Minneapolis. Based on the 1960 film by the legendary independent filmmaker Roger Corman, who just passed away last month, the musical was an off Broadway hit in the early 1980’s. Leading to a film adaptation of the musical in 1986, which most audiences are probably more familiar with. I will say that if you are thinking of skipping this production because you’ve seen the film, don’t, it has a different ending. The musical was written book and lyrics by the late Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken the team that resurrected the Disney Animated film with their one two punch of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Their songs here have a 1960’s feel which is always my cup of tea even featuring a trio of narrators who sound like a 60’s girl group. They are embodied by the fantastic Erica Durham, Gabrielle Dominique, and Vie Boheme and might just be my favorite part of the entire production. It is a great cast to be sure but it’s the set and overall production design that is the real star of the show. Scenic Designer Lex Liang’s city street with Florist shop that opens is impressive and filled with wonderful little touches like the billboard signs, I especially liked the one for the 1959 film Return of the Fly

The story revolves around Seymour a young man working in a florist shop on skid row. Seymour has obtained an exotic looking plant and convinces his boss Mr. Mushnik to display the plant which he has named Audrey II after the shop girl he is in love with. The plant attracts attention and the shop goes from the brink of going out of business to a success. The plant grows and grows until it takes up most of the shop, the only problem is the plants diet. It will only eat blood, human blood, and I guess human meat as well, as before the shocking conclusion Audrey II will have ingested multiple characters whole before your very eyes! Did I mention it’s a dark comedy, but with very singable songs. The Puppets used for Audrey II were designed by Chris Lutter and is controlled by Yvonne Freese and voiced by Twin Cities legend T. Mychael Rambo. It’s a dream team that perfectly brings the creation to life, it’s not realistic, but it’s very very fun. China Brickey as Audrey, Will Roland as Seymour, and Robert Dorfman as Mr. Mushnik are all well cast. Brickey is unrecognizable in the role as brings a vocalization that is broad without being a caricature, It was perfect for the character and so different that what I seen her do before. David Darrow plays multiple roles but it’s the role of Audrey’s sadist Dentist boyfriend Orin that steals every scene he’s in. His singing on “Be a Dentist” is one of the shows highlights. 

There are a couple of weak points in the show, the first is something that hopefully can be corrected and that is the sound mix. Everything is just slightly too loud, at times just a decibel too much robbing the songs of some of their musical qualities. The second relates to the costumes by Sully Ratke, most of which are very good. But there is something going on in the final scenes with a series of characters played by David Darrow, he comes on as various people who want to sign Seymour to contracts, they all appear to have little Audrey II’s growing out of their head. I thought perhaps they would turn out to be aliens, but it goes unexplained and felt very out of place and bizzare. Overall I found the cast and the design worked to create a spectacular evening of laughs and song, it’s a crowdpleaser to be sure. 

The Little Shop of Horrors runs through August 18th at the Guthrie theater for more information and to purchase tickets go to

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Photo credit: Dan Norman

Headshot of Rob Dunkelberger
Rob Dunkelberger

Rob is a member of the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers and their podcast Twin Cities Theater Chat as well as a syndicating contributor to Minnesota Playlist. Read all his content