KCT SummerFest continues its first season at its new venue, the MoonDance at Midnight Pass amphitheater, with an entertaining rendition of the musical Little Shop of Horrors, which opened Wednesday night under partly cloudy skies to a wholly enthusiastic audience.
This popular show by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman about a man-eating plant from outer space is an excellent choice for an outdoor musical by this troupe, and the company brings it to life under the sure-handed direction of Jenny Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick has filled the proceedings with all kinds of cute and campy touches, and her inventive choreography, rooted in '60s pop dance moves, lends a stylistic unity to all the stage movement. The scenic design by Jerome Wills, lighting design by Danny Bowling, and especially the excellent costumes by Kerri Peterson reinforce Fitzpatrick's vision with strong production elements.
The cast is uniformly superb, singing with gusto, dancing with flair and acting with comic intensity.
Matt Seckman plays nerdy Seymour as a real character rather than as a joke, thus letting the story drive the humor rather than just being a buffoon for cheap laughs. By underplaying the role, he allows the other characters to be more outlandish as they react to him, the true function of this central role. A big bravo to the big nebbish! (Related story: Actor's bucket list has one less role in it after Lexington production of 'Little Shop')
Meaghan Sharrard is hilarious as clueless, abused Audrey. She has magnetic stage presence and delivers a stellar performance in this role. The same could be said of Whit Whitaker as the menacing plant, Audrey II, if he were ever onstage until the curtain call. However, he gives sensational voice to the monster plant, full of verve and swagger: this is the best singing he has done in a Lexington show in recent years.
Jacob Karnes adds yet another memorable characterization to his repertoire, as the crabby Jewish florist Mr. Mushnik, endowing him with some truly funny schtick. His song with Seymour, Mushnik and Son, is the highlight of this production. Josh Heinlein also brings infectious energy and a great singing voice to his several roles, including that of sadistic dentist Orin.
The musical is narrated by a trio of girl singers: Ronnette, Crystal, and Chiffon, portrayed with pizzazz by Elise Parker, Jessica Greene and Terrence Tichenor. They really hold the show together visually and musically, and they're so much fun to watch that I found myself trying not to miss anything they did, even while other characters were supposed to have the focus.
Anne Hoots, Alex Bellocq, Kimba Butts and John Code are the quartet of puppeteers who animate Audrey II throughout the show, and they too do an excellent job.
The superb musical direction by Colette Jones has all the singers sounding great. What is more, the fantastic band, with Jones and Judi Reynolds on keyboard, Richard Jones on bass, Luke Jackson on guitar, and Adam Hardwick on percussion is professional caliber, tight and tuneful. It's too bad they have to play from backstage, because they comprise one of the best ensembles I have heard accompany a show in this area in quite some time.
Kudos to KCT SummerFest for such a well-done inaugural musical in the company's new venue. Audiences need to check out this new, improved location and this fabulous, funny show.
Tedrin Blair Lindsay is a musician, theater artist and lecturer at the University of Kentucky.