Review Roundup: Critics Weigh In On LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS At Kennedy Center
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' semi-staged concert production of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's Little Shop of Horrors, helmed by director Mark Brokaw (Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella) is now on stage.
The tuneful and hilarious musical about a megalomaniacal R&B singing carnivorous plant stars Tony Award® nominee Megan Hilty (Smash, Noises Off) as Audrey, Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother, Disgraced, The Babylon Line) as Seymour Krelborn, Michael James Leslie (Little Shop of Horrors on Broadway, in London, Los Angeles, and across the country) as Audrey II, Tony Award® nominee Nick Cordero (A Bronx Tale, Bullets over Broadway) as Orin Scrivello, D.D.S., Amber Iman (Shuffle Along, the national tour of Hamilton) as Crystal, Amma Osei (Rock of Ages) as Ronnette, and Allison Semmes (Motown ) as Chiffon. Tony Award® nominee Lee Wilkof (Waitress, Kiss Me Kate), who played Seymour in the original 1982 production, returns to Little Shop of Horrors as Mr. Mushnik.
Presented as a part of Broadway Center Stage-a Kennedy Center-produced series of musicals in semi-staged concerts, conceived and executive produced by Jeffrey Finn-Little Shop of Horrors runs October 24-28, 2018 in the Eisenhower Theater.
With book and lyrics by Academy Award® winner Howard Ashman and music by Academy Award® and Tony Award® winner Alan Menken, Little Shop of Horrors is a delicious sci-fi camp classic based on the 1960s cult horror film. Meek floral assistant Seymour Krelborn stumbles across a new breed of plant he names "Audrey II," after his co-worker crush. This foul-mouthed carnivore promises unending fame and fortune to Seymour as long as he keeps feeding it... blood.
The creative team for this production includes choreography by Spencer Liff (So You Think You Can Dance, Head Over Heels, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), musical direction by Joey Chancey, set design by Tony Award® winner Donyale Werle (Peter and the Starcatcher), lighting design by Cory Pattak (Broadway Center Stage: In the Heights), costume design by Jennifer Caprio (Falsettos, Spelling Bee), sound design by Tony Award® winner Kai Harada (The Band's Visit, Broadway Center Stage: Chess), and projection design by Alex Basco Koch (Be More Chill).
Tickets for all performances are on sale through at the Kennedy Center box office, the website, or by calling (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324.
After an inaugural season that included starry Kennedy Center productions of Chess, In the Heights, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, the 2018-2019 Broadway Center Stage season will continue with Meredith Willson's Tony Award®-winning classic, The Music Man, starring Norm Lewis, and The Who's Tommy, the Tony Award®-winning musical.
Broadway Center Stage: Little Shop of Horrors will be performed Wednesday, October 24-Sunday, October 28 at 8 p.m. with matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 27 and Sunday, October 28. For more information please visit the Kennedy Center website, in-person at the Kennedy Center box office, or call (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324.
Let's see what the critics have to say!
Peter Marks, Washington Post: The modest mission of the Kennedy Center's Broadway Center Stage series, now in its second year, is to bring back popular shows and present them in bare-bones fashion, with the orchestra on scaffolding and actors sometimes clutching scripts. This approach, under Mark Brokaw's direction, comports extremely well with "Little Shop's" aesthetic, which ideally is tacky, tacky, tacky. And that ideal is mastered in Brokaw's staging in the exemplary person of Michael James Leslie, who not only provides the vocals for Audrey II - the foul-tempered plant whose diet doesn't discriminate between supporting and leading players - but also stands up as risibly and quite majestically as the exotic flytrap itself.
Jennifer Perry, BroadwayWorld: I've saved Josh Radnor as Seymour for last. While Mr. Radnor has a few non-musical Broadway credits, most of his work has been on television. On the night I attended, he did not appear as comfortable in his role as the other cast members, particularly during the musical numbers. He was more or less believable as the adorkable botanist and could carry a tune, but I wondered what the result would have been if a more seasoned high-level musical theater actor had been cast opposite Ms. Hilty. I commend Mr. Radnor for taking a risk, especially in a musical presentation with a short rehearsal period though. It wasn't a bad effort and it's entirely possible his performance will grow even stronger as the short run continues.
Kristen Price, Our Community Now: In addition to the fantastic casting KC has amassed for the Broadway Centerstage productions, they've also mastered the art of doing a lot with very little set décor. Because the productions run for only one week, the set designers don't create large set pieces. They rely on projections and small moving objects. In the case of Little Shop, set on "Skid Row," the projections of graffitied brick walls and dilapidated storefronts set the scene from the moment the curtain rises. Add to that the trashcans and city stoops, and you've got a stage set squarely on the wrong side of the tracks. A few tables with some flowers, some rotary phones, and a worse-for-the-wear store sign, and you're suddenly in Mushnick's florist. It's a creative way to see a show - focusing on actors' performances rather than relying on fancy stage elements.
Jeffrey Walker, DC Theatre Scene: As the nebbish leading man, and resident amateur botanist, Josh Radnor breathes life to Seymour, and holds his own with his costar. Seymour is an actor's part who must sing and on those notes, Radnor handles his duties with charm. Among his appearances, sadistic dentist and Audrey's abusive boyfriend Dr. Scrivello, Nick Cordero carries out his spine-chilling duties with a drill.