BWW Album Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (The New Off-Broadway Cast Album) Delivers Everything Your Secret, Greasy Heart Desires
I have been a lifelong fan of Little Shop of Horrors. As a toddler, I somehow saw a VHS of the musical film, and ended up driving my family insane with my incessant requests to watch "plant movie!" Legend has it my mom eventually broke the tape to save my family from insanity, and my family vowed to never speak of the musical around me so it would fade from my memory. Their plan seemingly worked until I rediscovered the film as an adolescent. All of this is to say, I approached Ghostlight Records' Little Shop of Horrors (The New Off-Broadway Cast Album) with equal amounts of excitement and trepidation. Would it live up to the joys of the distinctive treasures that are the Original Off-Broadway Cast Album, the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, and the 2003 New Broadway Revival recordings? Luckily, it does. So, to quote Audrey II, "Go git it!"
A smash with reviewers and so very hard to get a ticket to, the 2019 Off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors is, sadly, one I haven't been able to see. However, this brilliant cast album is truly a remarkable a postcard from the production that one could ask for. From the opening drum roll, piano tremolo, and electric guitar riff of "Prologue," listeners are instantly transported to the modest Westside Theatre. The pared down instrumentation reminds us that we're fully Off-Broadway and allows us to bask in the small-scale joys of the musical. This setting is masterfully reiterated with every perfectly unadorned, but brilliant use of acoustic guitar throughout the album. Each new orchestration sparkles, showing that there is still plenty of blood left in these oft-performed tunes. That means, the bandages come off all the metaphorical fingers and these musicians feed us until our hearts and souls are beyond content!
Leading the cast, Jonathon Groff's Seymour is smoother and sleeker than we may be used to hearing. Despite the character's lack of confidence, Groff's vocals are unquestionably sexy but also capably colored with just enough insecure nerdiness to be believable. It's like you can hear him push up his glasses and pull the waist of his pants above his belly button each time he says or does something awkward or bumbling.
Opposite Groff, Tammy Blanchard's Audrey is possibly the album's biggest surprise. Gone is the ditzy, squeaky girl we came to love in both the 1986 film and 2003 revival versions. Blanchard delivers a world-weary, grit and gravel infused woman that has seen some things. Sure, she is still scatterbrained and adroitly giving us all the comedy we have come to expect; however, Blanchard's Audrey is so far from a cartoon that - for the first time on a cast recording of the material - we physically feel her heartbreak and tragedy.
Singing Audrey II, Kingsley Leggs is full of vibrant soul, charm, and is delectably sinister. His iteration of the man-eating plant is comfortably familiar and still uniquely his own. Tom Alan Robbins brings charismatic life to his portrayal of the dour yet hopeful Mushnick. Ari Groover, Salome Smith, and Joy Woods are perfectly engaging as the Greek chorus, filling every number with their resplendent and honied voices, delicious harmonies, and tangible pizzazz.
Whether this is your first or 1,000th Little Shop of Horrors, Ghostlight Records Little Shop of Horrors (The New Off-Broadway Cast Album) is a wonderfully triumphant and successful cast album. This is one mean, green mother from outer space that you absolutely do not want to miss!
Ghostlight Records Little Shop of Horrors (The New Off-Broadway Cast Album) is available from Ghostlight Records' web store, Apple Music, Amazon, and on streaming services. Physical copies are forthcoming.