BWW Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS by ArtsCentric at Baltimore Motor House - Full of Energy
You may have heard of the long journey of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS from a 1960 Roger Corman horror film (with a young Jack Nicholson) to a 1982 Off-Broadway hit musical, a 1986 film with Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, and Steve Martin, and a revival in 2003 this time on Broadway with Hunter Foster, Douglas Sills and Kerry Butler. And believe it or not, another revival coming to Off-Broadway previewing on September 17 and opening October 17 to The Westside Theatre Upstairs with Jonathan Groff, Tammy Blanchard, Christian Borle, and Kinglsey Leggs.
But you still have until Sunday afternoon, August 17, 2019 to see this hit musical right here in Baltimore at ArtsCentric at the Motor House on 120 West North Avenue. If you have never heard of ArtsCentric, it was established in 2003 and it is committed to showcase entirely African-American performers which they have successfully achieved doing six shows a year. They have produced a wide range of theater including their initial Sondheim musical PUTTING IT TOGETHER, Jason Robert Brown's SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD, to Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA.
Artistic Director Kevin S. McAllister has done a masterful job in establishing this theater company into a reputable addition to the Baltimore/Washington theater scene. I have seen McAllister in numerous theatrical productions and have always marveled at his acting acumen. Now for the first time, I have seen his work as a Director and I'm impressed. He has directed a spirited and enjoyable take on LITTLE SHOP and as assembled a superb cast of actors, dancers, and musicians presenting an enjoyable evening of theatre in an intimate space with only 115 seats. Imagine four rows of seating with a wide aisle in the middle and stages to the right and left. Every seat is close to the action.
McAllister places LITTLE SHOP in bustling 1970's Harlem in Skid Row and what great work he does with his talented cast. You will hear some classic ballads like "Suddenly Seymour" and the wonderful "Somewhere That's Green" along with the peppy "Little Shop of Horrors" led by the trio of "Chiffon" (Raquel Jennings) "Crystal" (Kanysha Williams), and "Ronette" (Audrea Gerald).
This campy musical involves a florist shop named Mushnik's (the affable Ryan Gholson) who must admit that the inevitable closing of his shop due to having no business. He has two employees: Audrey (the lovely Kayla Halo Wheeler) and his klutz of an assistant Seymour (the talented Ricardo Blagrove) who has wishes of a romance with Audrey. The problem is Audrey has a relationship with a sadistic dentist named Orin (the multi-talented Patrick Leonardo Casimir) who has a habit of injuring poor little Audrey, rides a motorcycle, and wears a long leather coat.
The story involves an unusual plant found by Seymour who assures Mushnik that putting the plant in the florist's window will attract new customers and he is correct. The plant attract hordes of people. Seymour discovers the plant, he labels Audrey II, exists on a diet of human blood, grows larger and larger and even sings (Jhermaine Drakeford with a great deep baritone voice). You will get goose bumps when he sings "Feed Me", and "Suppertime".
The cast of 16 is full of energy throughout the evening and Shayne Hemby's choreography will remind you of dances from the television series "Soul Train".
Music Director Cedric Lyles incorporates the sounds of disco, funk, and soul music of the '70s and his band is terrific: Lyles on Piano, Anthony Dix on Keyboards 2, Ernest Douglas on Guitar, Michael Kellam on Bass, and Tarek Mohamed on Drums. I do wish though the band toned it down somewhat so we could hear the wonderful lyrics of the late Howard Ashman.
This is a great way to introduce young people to musical theater.
This week-end is the last week-end for ArtsCentric at the location on 120 West North Avenue. They move into their new space at 2600 North Howard Street with the musical THE WIZ which will play December 6, 2019 to January 12, 2020.
For tickets to the Saturday night show or Sunday matinee performance, call 410-205-5130 or online at www.ArtsCentric.org.
THIS AND THAT
The Kennedy Center features opening of their new expansion with three above-ground pavilions and an outdoor concert stage. It runs September 7 to the 22. It's all FREE!!! Check out www.Kennedy-Center.org/REACH.
On September 11 you can attend a Master Class with composer Alan Menken.
There will be a concert that evening of Menken's Broadway music with the National Symphony at 8 p.m. and a rehearsal at 1:30 p.m. You will hear songs from LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, ALADDIN, and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.
You can get tickets by calling 202-467-4600.
Also coming to the Kennedy Center are CATS (September 17 to October 6), WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME (September 11-22) and FOOTLOOSE, part of the Broadway Center Stage program October 9 to the 13th.