Every once in a while, you see something and immediately underestimate it. You think, “I’ve seen this before,” or “I saw the movie, so why do I need to read the book?” And although it’s a common and understandable thought, occasionally, you’re wrong. I was so wrong about the Millennial Theatre Project’s “Little Shop of Horrors,” and I will never underestimate them again.
The Millennial Theatre Project (MTP) was born out of a need for more opportunities for teens who “age out of local youth theater” and have trouble finding opportunities. Since 2016, they have provided “new artistic space for Millennial voices,” that cultivate young audiences and sell out shows. That is not an exaggeration: don’t wait too long to get your tickets, or the show may be sold out. Plus, the director is a woman (Megan Renner), showing once again that Northeast Ohio supports diversity in theatre.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece initially said that the Millennial Theatre Project staged “Heathers: The Musical” at the Akron Civic Theatre in 2016. That show was in fact staged by The Millennial Theatre Company, based in Youngstown. We regret the error.
For those of you who don’t know the musical “Little Shop of Horrors,” the plant (Audrey II) feeds on human flesh and invades the life of a poor, sweet, romantic and geeky human named Seymour, played by actor Ben Mowrer. Josh Budd plays Audrey II and shows up dressed quite preppy from head to toe — his representation of the plant’s initial “harmless” introduction. But Josh has that look in his eye that skillfully creeps you out. It’s too entertaining to look away. Audrey II — sometimes affectionately referred to as “Two-ee” — demands blood to grow big, strong and fame-inducing.
“Little Shop of Horrors” does a great job of drawing you in by the second song of the show, “Downtown (Skid Row).” This is when you meet the sassy trio that makes up the show’s chorus. Their charisma and vocal talent make you immediately fall in love with them. The cast’s harmonies float in a soulful swing over undertones of poverty, depression and eventually physical abuse. It is dark, but the writing makes it quite funny and absolutely strange. For those of us who are into dark comedy, it is riveting.
If you’re already a “Little Shop of Horrors” fan, you remember the dentist, here played by Ryan Dyke, a fantastic cast addition. Between he and the plant, you’re not really sure who makes you squirm more with discomfort. The singing, fun characters compliment the uncomfortable, manipulative moments of murder throughout the piece.
Picking Sweeney Todd as their follow-up was brilliant and shows us that someone at MTP also finds dark humor riveting. That show ran for one weekend at the Akron Civic Theater in late August.
Never doubt the Millennial Theatre Project. Just don’t. They have fun. They are talented. They may even convince you to attend more musicals.