BWW Review: Laughter and Fun Take Root with LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Beef & Boards
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is a quirky and offbeat musical beloved by off-Broadway fans for decades. Its irreverent comedy but relatable story lines make it easy to love. However, it comes with its challenges, especially the technical aspect of making a plant behave as a character without showing the operator on stage. And how does someone give voice to such a character? Beef & Boards takes on these challenges and conquers them with ease in their production of Little Shop of Horrors.
Before I even delve into the details of what I loved best about this show, it is worth noting that I was in no way disappointed with a single character on that stage. That is quite the feat for something as well-known as Little Shop of Horrors, since it has a beloved film version also. I expected that the production would be excellent, as always, but I was not prepared for how thoroughly all of the performers enhanced my experience.
Since everyone did so well but I can't list out every cast member, there are of course a few highlights that stood out. It may be obvious but it can't be avoided: Seymour was excellent. Joey Boos didn't just portray his character, he became his character for the entire time he was on stage. He embodied the sweet, awkward, shy, and uncertain Seymour to a tee. His dedication was met equally with that of Jenny Reber as Audrey. She never once let her dialogue disappoint and used body language to high effect to show Audrey's timidity and sincerity, in spite of her bad taste in boyfriends.
Seymour and Audrey were highlights in general, but Logan Moore as Orin Scrivello, DDS, and the duo that brought Audrey II to life, Josiah R. McCruiston and Josh Maldonado, were the comic highlights. Logan Moore was the perfect blend of nauseating and ridiculously funny. If his hysterics don't produce hysterics of your own, your funny bone is broken. McCruiston and Maldonado combined made Audrey II funny and sinister simultaneously. It's a difficult task to give personality to a plant, but they made Audrey II reach beyond her roots and infest the whole show. It was a joy to witness.
In the musical, Little Shop of Horrors by dynamic duo, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, a hungry, R&B-crooning, carnivorous plant has set his sights on world domination. Directed by Jeff Stockberger, music direction by Robert Merkin, and choreography by Ron Morgan, this deviously wonderful sci-fi musical favorite came to Beef & Boards with some deliciously devious new ideas, great character, larger-than-life Audrey II, and Skid Row.
For this musical never making it to Broadway, nothing at Beef & Boards ever looks skimpy or unrehearsed, and Little Shop... is no exception. It was attractively staged by Scenic Designer Michael Layton, who smartly created a believable Skid Row with just a couple of revolving set pieces. Lighting designs by Ryan Koharchik helped to reinforce the musical's downhearted New York setting where Mushkin's flower shop, a pitiful relic of an bygone era, is on the brink of closing. Koharchik's lighting also enhanced the show with increasingly eerie and not-of this-world effects.
Jenny Reber gave us an Audrey who was as emotionally delicate and helpless as her predecessors I've see performing the role. Heartwarmingly hopeful as she sang, in a nice soprano voice, "Somewhere That's Green," her dreams of a steady life in the suburbs, Reber demonstrated an impressive volume and presence in her duet with Joey Boos (Seymour) during the musical's signature song, "Suddenly Seymour." Together, Boos and Reber are endearing, sweet, and funny together.
Kudos and a standout mention has to be given to Logan Moore, who fully inhabited the salacious role of Orin Scrivello, DDS, who became a dentist by way of channeling his inner sadistic "tendencies". His interpretation of "The Dentist" drilled deep into every painful episode we have ever experienced in the chair and was absolutely hilarious.
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS was an impressive choice for the Beef & Boards, who usually goes it with more classics. I secretly hope for Sweeney Todd in 2021. Separated from super-extravagant trappings of other shows, the energetic numbers and clever lyrics were able to stand fully on their own. In some ways, LITTLE SHOP... showed its age. Its broad treatment of African Americans, Jews, a ditzy blonde, and a serial abuser might never have launched a musical had it been released today. But, if you think about it, this show explores what it means when the American dream goes off the hinges. In that sense, it is both timeless and timely.
If you're hungry for some musical hilarity, no need to say, "Feed me!". Simply purchase your tickets for Beef & Boards' production today through November 17th.