Little Shop of Horrors
Synopsis: In this deviously delicious sci-fi rock musical, meek floral assistant Seymour Krelborn stumbles across a new breed of plant he names “Audrey II” (after his coworker crush). This foul-mouthed, R&B-singing carnivorous plant promises unending fame and fortune to the down-and-out Seymour as long as he keeps feeding it...
Running off-Broadway on the Upstairs stage in the Westside Theatre is the recent Revival of Little Shop of Horrors. The story of Little Shop of Horrors is an age-old tale of a boy working alongside a girl, and the boy pines for a girl while loathing her abusive boyfriend, so the boy partners with a man-eating plant to make sure all his dreams come true. With books and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken, Little Shop of Horrors is an instant cult classic. Helming this recent revival falls in the direction of Michael Mayer as he works to showcase this musical comedy and satirize the 1950s Sci-fi genre. Pacing can be a major obstacle for a director to navigate as it can hurt or hinder production. Michael Mayer however created beautiful moments of silence that surprisingly kept the audience engaged and laughing without dragging down the story. Two such prime moments of this are right after the completion of grow for me when a pause was taken where the plant was not growing as normally the case for those familiar, and during the act 1 finale while the Orin (portrayed by Andrew Call) slowly walked up to Seymour’s gun.
The director however needs a cast to work with. Seymour, the titular, nerdy lead caught up with the plant was played by Tony winner Matt Doyle. Matt’s portrayal was cookie-cutter Seymour. The mannerisms, the character choices, and the delivery of lines, all could have been swapped and compared with Rick Moranis’s portrayal in the 1986 film. Where Matt’s portrayal felt a fresh and unique way of the choices he made vocally, optioning up or adding in moments of vocal riffing to make the cookie-cutter portrayal feel less so. Alongside Seymour is Audrey, the love interest currently entangled in an abusive relationship portrayed by Tony winner Lena Hall. Where Matt’s Seymour felt cookie cutter, Lena’s Audrey was anything but. Breaking from the ditsy, high-pitched, bimbo voice normally associated with the role, Lena Hall’s portrayal brought in the grit to build a wholly unique Audrey. During the climax of her storyline where both she and Matt sing “Suddenly Seymour” and she begins to break from the abuse she’d been facing, her notes soar and create moments of delight and power. Andrew Call as Audrey’s abusive dentist boyfriend Orin was probably the highlight of the show, relying heavily on Andrew Call’s strength of physical humour and unorthodox line delivery made this character feel both unhinged and irredeemable as befitting of the role.
Rounding out the cast of leads are Ari Groover, Tiffany Reneé Thompson, and Camryn Hampron, the urchins and narrators of the story, pushing the cast along and providing tight harmonies, Michael Iannucci as the understudy for Mister Mushnik the shop owner, and most importantly, Zakiya Baptiste as the understudy for Audrey II, the plant at the heart of the tale. Zakiya’s Audrey II was hysterical and vocally perfect. Her choices made while singing the role was fresh and unique and begs the question as to why more adaptations of the material don’t choose to go for a female-identifying plant. However, Michael Iannucci as Mushnik’s understudy did leave much to be desired as it felt the role was phoned in, missing about half the jokes provided.
On the technical side, Julian Crouch had to create both the streets of Skid Row and the shop Mushnik and Son’s Floral. The set did an excellent job of enhancing the story and creating a brilliant place to play. While having the shop be an enclosed room with retractable walls when scenes took place inside the shop allowed for spacial dimension to be played with and upped the feelings of being cramped in a small shop with a massive plant. Speaking of the plant, the puppetry designed by Nicholas Mahon and created by the Monkey Boys Production perfectly encapsulated Audrey II and made it feel lifelike instead of just a puppet.
Overall, the show was a fantastic revival of this now classic show. The selling points of the show would be Lena’s portrayal of Audrey and the puppetry of Audrey II.
Where the show fell short was in its fairly cookie-cutter moments and areas where the cast felt weaker. This show however earns a solid 4 out of 5 stars.
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