Padgett Productions Mounts a Solid, Energetic “Little Shop of Horrors”

Seymour and Audrey embrace in front of the giant plant puppet Audrey II in a scene from Little Shop of Horrors.

Nick Padgett and Katie Marie Jones in “Little Shop of Horrors” (Photo by Jessica Kent-Deterding)

The company at Padgett Productions got a crash course in the unpredictability of live theater with their latest production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” The team was leveled by COVID-19 just before opening night, forcing substitutes—not even official understudies from the sound of it—to step in with less than 24 hours’ notice. The second weekend’s Friday night show was the first time the original full cast and crew reunited so some bumps were to be expected. However, if not for a pre-show curtain speech explaining the circumstances, I can’t imagine anyone would have guessed this was their first performance back. The show ran seamlessly and the voices were strong. This beloved classic is a show that requires full life and energy and Padgett Productions delivered.

“Little Shop’s” doo-wop narrator trio of Crystal, Ronette, and Chiffon—the show’s version of a Greek chorus—immediately sets the tone for the rest of the night. Here, Kristen Altoro-Nevins, Jazlyn Epps, and Alena Riley do a phenomenal job with the task at hand. All three have pitch-perfect voices and commanding stage presence. The cast is strong across the board, with Katie Marie Jones starring as an exceptionally winning Audrey, with a powerful voice and charming vulnerability.

That’s not to say the show is without its bumps. Ian VanDusen’s dusky, borderline experimental lighting adds interesting depth to some of the more dramatic scenes but overall, mostly just obscures the performances. This is especially detrimental to the show’s Seymour (Nick Padgett, who also directed the production), who also spends the whole first act hidden behind thick glasses and a baseball cap, casting his entire face in shadow through every scene, ultimately making it difficult to connect with his performance. Padgett is clearly a talented performer and a skilled director, but that kind of double duty with a director starring in the leading role is a gamble and this one, unfortunately, could have done with another set of eyes.

Overall, this is a solid production of a delightful classic. Padgett makes great use of the spacious Warwick Theatre—which, to be warned, is a beautiful but old building with an A/C system to match. Kelli Harrod fills the space with a playful set, ingeniously giving space to the band (skillfully led by Music Director Tim Braselton) in an elevated loft above the rest of the action.

This run of “Little Shop of Horrors” is a solid, skillful, and energetic mounting of a classic that even on its own, is always sure to be a fun experience, and Padgett Productions more than lives up to the material at hand.

“Little Shop of Horrors,” a production of Padgett Productions, runs through August 21 at the Warwick Theatre, 3927 Main Street. For more information, visit www.padgettproductionskc.com.

Vivian Kane

Vivian Kane is a writer living in Kansas City. She covers pop culture and politics for a national audience at The Mary Sue and theatre and film locally, with bylines in The Pitch. She has an MFA in Theatre from CalArts.

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