BWW Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at TEXARTS
Based on the 1960 movie directed by Roger Corman, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS by writer Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken, is the marriage of a 60's love story and the apocalyptic sci-fi films of the era set to music. "On the twenty-third day of the month of September in an early year of a decade not too long before our own, the human race suddenly encountered a deadly threat to its very existence. And this terrifying enemy surfaced, as such enemies often do, in the seemingly most innocent and unlikely of places." And so goes the prologue to the popular small cast musical LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. This is a crowd pleasing intimate campy black musical comedy. Its success led to the musical being produced as a movie in 1986 with Rick Moranis, Vincent Gardenia, Ellen Greene and Steve Martin in the lead roles.
Here's what happens: Nerdy Seymour buys a plant from a Chinese guy in the middle of a total eclipse of the sun and brings it back to the Skid Row floral shop where he has been fortunate enough to work ever since the owner, Mr. Mushnik, took him off the streets. Seymour is in love with Audrey, who is in an abusive relationship with Orin Scravello, the sadistic dentist. (Are there dentists who aren't sadistic?) The plant, a talking-Venus-flytrap-like-species of shrubbery, has a penchant for human blood and grows throughout the show. The plant, Audrey II, is so unique and unusual it makes Seymour and the flower shop where he works famous. So famous in fact, that Mr. Mushnik the owner, adopts Seymour in fear he'll lose his good fortune without him. In the middle of his rise to fame, Seymour professes his love for Audrey (the human) and Audrey II (the plant) grows more every day. One thing leads to another and without giving too much away, Audrey II becomes an insatiable and inconsolable man eating plant. Ashman and Menken give the show plenty of doo wop, provided handily by Ronette, Crystal and Chiffon, the Greek Chorus-like women who hang around the shop.
Director Val Williams cast the gorgeous trio of Makayla Perez (Ronnette), Caleigh Wilson (Crystal), and Paige Harvey (Chiffon) as the doo-wop girls in this production, and without intending to do so, choreographer J. Quinton Johnson gives them such great moves it's hard to avoid watching them when one shouldn't. Good thing the rest of the cast is just as talented and tight. TexArts is a small venue, so Johnson's got his work cut out for him, but he's given every song in this show just enough life to keep it moving along - neither over nor under staging any of the numbers at all. Like Goldilocks, his work is 'just right." It should be, as he's quite a talent on stage as well, with credits that include HAMILTON and CHOIR BOY. Ben Gibson is a worthy Mushnik, energetic and as blustery as a Mushnik should be. Michael Wheeler is fresh-faced and just adorable as the reluctant nerdy hero Seymour. It's hard to point to standouts in a show so smooth as glass as this one, but, new comer to the TexArts stage, Leigh Sauvageau's Audrey is right in line and her voice is simply, well, music to the ears. Roderick Sanford, whose made quite a name for himself around Austin with his distinct soulful bass voice, makes Audrey II irresistible. And then there's Andrew Cannata, who excels as the dentist... and... almost every other character in the play. As a character actor myself, this guy won my heart.
Alison Lewis's lighting and Tumbleweed productions scenic design contribute nicely in this intimate little space, and kudos go sound designer Andrew Twenter and music director Lyn Koenning for thankfully keeping the sound and music unobtrusive.
Catch this version of Little Shop of Horrors if you can, this weekend is the final one for the run of the show - it's loads of fun, and is yet another of the TexArts high caliber, professional level shows, right in that unsuspecting little spot in a strip mall in Lakeway. Go see and have fun!
October 4 - 20, 2019
2300 Lohman's Spur Suite 160 Austin, TX 78734
Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Music by Alan Menken
Visit TexARTS for tickets
Photo credit April Paine Photography