PHAMALY’s production of Little Shop of Horrors, directed by Steven Wilson, is unlike any other. Filled with excitement, laughter, and a twinge of darkness, Little Shop brought the audience to the middle of skid row for a wild ride with a very peculiar plant, with a twist. PHAMALY is an award-winning Colorado based theatre company composed entirely of performers with a wide variety of disabilities. Each actor has either a physical, emotional, or cognitive handicap, infusing the show with a much deeper sense of meaning.
Little Shop of Horrors sings the dark, comedic tale of Seymour Krelborn (played by Daniel Traylor), an unfortunate orphan working at the run-down Mushnik’s Skid Row Florists. When he discovers a mysterious new plant, his life is forever changed. Naming the specie Audrey II after the pretty shop employee Seymour has his eye on, he hopes to impress the real Audrey (Kathi Wood) into accepting a date. As people from all over come down to see the plant, Mushnik’s Florists blossoms with business.
Pretty soon, the Audrey II grows to become a bad-tempered, R&B-belting, constantly hungry carnivore that offers Seymour a life full of fame and fortune in exchange for food. However, this sinister plant’s appetite calls for blood. Human blood. Seymour is faced with the moral dilemma of giving in to the Audrey II’s gruesome meal requests and continuing on with his time in the limelight, or attempting to destroy the creature bound for world domination.
While the show maintained the dark fun of the original script, PHAMALY added a certain depth and life to its characters with actors of all shapes, sizes, and colors. The general theme of acceptance and opportunity threaded throughout the show. Sunday’s 2 p.m. showtime also offered an audio described and ASL signed performance for audience members with disabilities themselves. A special backstage sensory tour before the show provided audience members to tactically experience the set, costumes, and characters in order to fully enjoy the performance.
PHAMALY is the only theatre company in the country that produces professional shows containing a cast with mixed disabilities. It offers talented actors an opportunity to practice their craft and perform in professional-level productions despite their handicaps. Without reading the brochure on all of the accomplished characters, you would never know the struggles many face on a daily basis.
The guiding principles of PHAMALY include awareness, artistic experience, empowerment, and inclusion in order to not only provide the actors themselves with an opportunity to perform, but to challenge the audience’s perception of disabilities. Little Shop of Horrors did just that, utilizing their high quality theatre artistry to seamlessly unite the actors and their performance, placing emphasis on the individuals and not their disabilities.
Experience PHAMALY’s Little Shop of Horrors for yourself at the Space Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex through August 5, 2012. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. on Sundays, and 7:30 p.m. on Monday, July 30. For tickets, prices, and more information, check out www.phamaly.org.
Avery Johnson is a 303 Magazine intern for the Arts & Culture section. She is a Colorado native currently majoring in English and Communication Studies at the University of San Diego. When she isn’t writing, she’s all about gettin’ active outside or baking up a storm. She rarely leaves the house without a good book. Click here to follow her blog.