BWW Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Fulton Theatre
The Fulton Theatre should consider renaming their newest production, a musical about a man-eating plant, Big Shop of Horrors. Everything about it is big...big voices, big production values, and big fun! Ben Liebert plays Seymour Krelborn, the sad sack flower shop clerk who nurtures a mysterious plant with a taste for blood. Liebert garners our sympathy, and has the audience "rooting" for him to succeed. Even when Seymour starts to cross over to the dark side, we recognize that he is in over his head, and we still hope that he will get a little bit of the fame, fortune, and love that he deserves.
Speaking of love, Christine Sherrill plays Audrey, Seymour's co-worker and girl of his dreams. Sherrill is a statuesque actress, and towers over her co-star even when she takes off her heels. She has a powerful voice and commands the stage. However, Sherrill's confidence and poise somewhat diminish the sympathy and vulnerability needed for us to believe that Audrey and Seymour are a pair of losers who deserve each other. We should believe that they are soulmates, not just an office fling.
Director, Marc Robin supervised some very interesting and rewarding choices in the casting and portrayal of the plant, Audrey II. In most productions, Audrey II is represented by a Venus Fly Trap-like puppet voiced by a man. The Fulton features Patrice Covington as Audrey II who is soulful, sassy and sexy. The casting of a female as Audrey II makes a lot of sense and nicely highlights the inherent jealousy between the plant and her namesake.
The characterization of the role is distinctly feminine in other ways as well. Traditionally, the plant opens its bulbous mouth and eats its prey in a way that can best be described as phallic. However, this production tackles it in a manner that is undeniably yonic. (Google it!)
Nathaniel Hackmann plays Orin Scrivello, Audrey's abusive dentist boyfriend. I distinctly remember Hackmann as Gaston from Fulton's recent production of Beauty and the Beast. Here, as he did in that production, he steals the show. He has the big, dumb, menacing bully character down to an art. He knows exactly how to get laughs one minute and hatred the next. His signature song, Be A Dentist was a lot of fun.
Other stand-outs from the show include Michael Iannucci as Mr. Mushnik , and Galyanna Castillo, Shea Renne, and Gina Naomi Baez as the "street urchins". Each helped enhance the action and brought additional humor to the show,
The grand scale of the show pays off for the most part. With a relatively small cast and few set changes, Little Shop is a darling of community and school theaters. However, the Fulton kicks it up a few notches in regards to vocalizations, orchestration, and set. The elaborate, intricate design of Covington's plant costume was especially impressive.
In a few ways, bigger is not always better. For example, I was looking forward to a bit in act II where, traditionally, the actor playing the dentist does a series of silly, quick-change entrances pretending to be different characters. The Fulton's larger than usual ensemble allowed each walk-on part to be played by a different actor. This choice lost most of the humor typically mined in that scene.
Little Shop of Horrors is playing at the Fulton Theater in downtown Lancaster through October 15th. It is perfect Halloween entertainment for those of us too chicken for Field of Screams. Come enjoy this great show, and remember, don't feed the plant!
Tickets and more information can be found at the theatre website, https://thefulton.org/