In baseball, three strikes and you’re out. At Dexter’s Encore Musical Theatre, however, it’s just the opposite: The company’s third-ever production scores a home run.
Most brand-new theaters struggle for awhile to find their groove – and Encore is no exception. While previous efforts were hobbled by varying degrees of cast, design, technical and execution problems, its latest offering, “Little Shop of Horrors,” moves the company forward by leaps and bounds.
The improvement is most noticeable with the on-stage talent. While each of the previous shows boasted a handful of top quality actors, that wasn’t always the case with various supporting and ensemble roles. With “Little Shop,” however, the cast is uniformly very good to excellent.
That’s particular true of Steve DeBruyne (Seymour), Sarah Litzsinger (Audrey) and Paul Hopper (Mr. Mushnik).
DeBruyne’s performance as the nerdy flower shop employee is as tight as Litzsinger’s costumes. It’s an equal blend of laughs and pathos, which compliments Litzsinger’s tackiness and charm quite nicely. And Hopper captures the crotchety store owner as if he was born to play the role.
Direction and choreography by Barbara F. Cullen is slick – especially throughout act one. (The opening number, “Skid Row (Downtown),” is especially well executed.)
Both the set (by Leo Babcock) and light design (by Dan Fowler) are well conceived, but more impressive are the Audrey II puppets, which were used in the recent Broadway revival. (Also spot-on is the plant’s voice by Michael Lanning, who, quite honestly, surprised me when he came out for his curtain call.)
The flaws on opening night were mostly technical: singers had difficulty with their volume, light cues were off (which accidentally revealed a few secrets) and a spotlight didn’t want to go where it was supposed to. My recommendation? Use Thursdays as a preview performance, so technical snafus are resolved before the pesky and cranky critics swoop in on opening night.
‘Little Shop of Horrors’
The Encore Musical Theatre, 3216 Broad St., Dexter. Thursday – Sunday through June 21. $28. 734-268-6200. http://www.theencoretheatre.org