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Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Great Lakes Theater

Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Great Lakes Theater

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS's cult followers will be devoured by Great Lakes production

"The Reluctant Orchid," a tale of a humble florist who uses a man-eating plant to get rid of his enemies and raise his own status was transformed into a low-budget 1960 black comedy film named LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. Alan Menken (music) and Howard Ashman (lyrics and book) transformed it into a musical, which is now on stage at The Great Lakes Theater.

The film, and later the off-Broadway musical, developed cult followings. It was so popular that when it moved from off-off Broadway to off-Broadway, it had a five-year run.
When it closed, it was the highest-grossing production in Off-Broadway history.

Since then, it has had many, many reincarnations including a 2019 smash revival which starred Jonathan Groff, who appeared in Great White Way's SPRING AWAKENING and HAMILTON, as well as TV's smash hit GLEE.

Filled with rock and roll, doo-wop and early Motown, the musical's catchy score, which includes "Skid Row" "Somewhere That's Green, and "Suddenly Seymour" often evoke singing from those in attendance, and cult followers sometimes bellow out imitations of the "Feed Me" sounds of Audrey II, the blood thirsty plant who plays a major part in the story's warped plot. In its full glory, attending it is a lot like going to a staging or screening of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW. (Side note: the staid GLT audience displayed few of the cult-followers tenacity.)

Howard Ashman, who wrote the lyrics and book, in the introduction to the acting edition of the libretto, states that the show "satirizes many things: science fiction, "B-movies, musical comedy itself, and even the Faust legend."

The musical opens with a trio of street urchins named Crystal, Ronette, and Chiffon setting the 1960's mood and foreshadow the tale, singing the title song and then acting as our Greek chorus, explaining the plot.

We meet Seymour Krelborn, a geeky young man who was taken as a child from an orphanage by Mr. Mushnik, the owner of a failing florist shop located on skid row. Also present are cranky Mr. Mushnik and Audrey, a pretty blonde who is in an abusive relationship with Orin Scrivello, a sadistic dentist.

Seymour buys a mysterious plant that looks like a large Venus flytrap. Since Seymour is secretly in love with Audrey, he names the plant Audrey II.

Though Seymour takes very good care of it, the plant does not thrive in its new environment. He accidentally pricks his finger on a rose thorn, which draws blood, and Audrey II's pod opens thirstily. Seymour realizes that Audrey II requires blood to survive.

Thus starts the farcical tale of how Audrey II's blood-needs are met. The florist shop becomes famous because of Audrey II, the abuser gets "done-in," Seymour finds a way to be with Audrey, and a lot of other weird "stuff" happens. Unless you are into "sadistic," you'll probably go home and toss out all your greenery.

The GLT production, under the spot-on direction by Victoria Bussert, Baldwin Wallace University's Director of Music Theatre, and who has served for 36 years at Great Lakes, will delight the many LITTLE SHOP cult-nerds.

Andrew Faria is geek perfect as Seymour. He squeaks, physically stumbles, acts nerdy and endears himself in the process. His "Grow for Me," charms. His scenes with the air-brained Audrey, delightfully performed by Sara Masterson, are comic classics. Her rendition of "Somewhere That's Green" evokes endearing sympathy for the character.

Aled Davies fully develops the role of Mr. Mushnik. Alex Syiek, a former Cleveland Critics Circle Best Actor in a Musical winner, is properly obnoxious as the sadist dentist. Sydney Alexandra Whittenburg, Savannah Cooper and Kris Lyons sing, swing and dance with outright glee as the street urchins.

Elijah Dawson steals the show as the voice of Audrey II. Chad Ethan Shohet, the puppeteer, makes Audrey II scarily real.

Nancy Maier's musicians, Jaclyn Miller's choreography, and Jeff Herman's scene design, Trad A Burns lighting design, and Danae Iris McQueen's costumes all added to the quality of the production. Too bad David Gotwold was not capable of balancing the voices with each other and the singing voices with the orchestra so that each voice could be clearly heard. Many lyrics were lost due to sound problems.

Capsule Judgment: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is the kind of show that many love to hate while others love it. The topics of abuse and drug use, which are not in the wheelhouse of musicals, sometimes turn people off, as does the phy-sci-centered plot. The GLT production is as good as you are going to get. It solidly hits all the comic and horror notes. It's a must see for the script's fans!

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS runs through October 2, 2002 at the Hanna Theatre. For tickets®id=58& call (216) 241-6000

From This Author - Roy Berko

Roy Berko, a life-long Clevelander, holds degrees, through the doctorate from Kent State, University of Michigan and The Pennsylvania State University. Roy was an actor for many years, appearing in... (read more about this author)

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