Definitely don't feed the plants! Watch as vines dangle and devour the stage, taking over Loudoun County High School's terrifying production of Little Shop of Horrors. With a brilliant ensemble bringing the story alive with puppetry, rhythmic flourishes, and songs that electrify, the cast and crew were able to reawaken this black comedy story with fantastical vocals and heartwarming reconnections.

Little Shop of Horrors is based on a story that was first written in 1740 by Charles B. Griffith, which was later adapted into a quickly popular film in 1960. It first appeared off-Broadway as a musical in 1982 and was revived off-Broadway once again in 2019. With musical numbers written by famous Disney musician Alan Menken, songs are lively and reference hints of iconic Disney movies, like Hercules, with the muses and the Skid Row Trio. Little Shop of Horrors followed the activity of a little flower shop, under the supervision of Mr. Mushnik and company including Seymour and the fashionable Audrey. Business being slow, Seymour found himself with a grand opportunity to put the small shop on the map, when he came across a venus flytrap mutation that craved human blood. There were certainly clever moments of organized and choreographed chaos that were engaging and delivered in character to accent a hardworking cast and crew, where there were clear choices made from Act I to Ac

t II. The movement and paired relationships were captivating and charming, adding extra attention to smaller character detail. 

Maxwell McKnight, the actor of Seymour, was the embodiment of a dorky man who needed to be more careful of what he wished for, with strong vocals and nervous movements. His moments in songs like "Call Back in the Morning", with actor Kat Blackwood as the kindly muse Audrey, were heartfelt and created wonderful chemistry as they struggled through their inevitable doom. Blackwood shined in "Somewhere That's Green," a memorable song in the original off-Broadway musical. Natalia Settipani, who stole the show as as the voice of the one and only Audrey 2, brought alive musical numbers "Feed Me (Git It)" and "Suppertime", with fluid range and astonishing comedic chemistry with Seymour. 

The Skid Row Trio, composed of Crystal (Mia Rodgers), Chiffon (Anna Takemoto), and Ronnette (Norah Lee), was exceedingly lively with emphasized facial expressions and voice decisions, instantly becoming personal favorites. Each girl's little details in character development terrifically moved the story and were attractive, especially the attention to detail through dance. Michael Sierra's chemistry with McKnight, actor of Mushnik, was exceedingly enjoyable in "Mushnik and Son." Mushnik's movement and singing were dazzling in the energetic song. Collin Diem, who played Dr. Orin, had fantastic comedic energy with Blackwood, McKnight, and the Skid Row Trio, in songs like "Dentist!" and "Now (It's Just the Gas)."

The technical elements of Loudoun County High School's Little Shop of Horrors creatively supported the cast and crew. The props were carefully crafted to reflect the mood of the story and progressed the tale, with a bountiful flower shop and torturous dentistry office. The special effects and puppetry design of Audrey 2 (crafted by Jada Venson) were unbelievable, with a growing and breathing Audrey 2 that could slip human feasts down its throat. 

"Suddenly, Seymour" finds his doom with everyone else, with a psychotic plant overtaking the world as it was—an ending unlike the film. Audrey 2 babies mutate and scatter to go, finalizing the end of Skid Row. 

[This review of the May 4, 2023, performance of Little Shop Of Horrors at Loudoun County High School is part of a series published in a partnership between Loudoun Now and  The Cappies, a writing and awards program that trains high school theater and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders.]

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