BWW Reviews: Kentwood Players Reproduce Original Version of Skid Row in LITTLE SHOP

Little Shop of Horrors/book & lyrics by Howard Ashman/music by Alan Menken/based on the film by Roger Corman, screenplay by Charles Griffith/directed & choreographed by Michael-Anthony Nozzi/music direction by Joshua Eli Kranz/Kentwood Players at Westchester Playhouse/through October 19

Unlike most productions of Little Shop of Horrors that I've seen, Kentwood Players has opened up the stage musical to include more of Skid Row. In fact, in praise of producers Shari Barrett and Sheridan Cole Crawford and director Michael-Anthony Nozzi, who came up with the concept, what we get is a real sense of community representing the homeless, adults and children, who literally lived/slept on the streets. The opening segment may be a tad too long but is indeed colorful and different. Now onstage through October 19, this Little Shop has two supreme guest artists Kristin Towers-Rowles as Audrey and musical director Joshua Eli Kranz.

Kranz skillfully works the keyboards and is responsible for the great vocal direction. Rowles, a versatile singer and actress, makes Audrey totally her own, nicely filling out the dresses and even spilling out in some of them. Her two big numbers 'Somewhere That's Green" and "Suddenly Seymour" are dynamically and gorgeously sung, and her honest-to-goodness sympathetic/caring nature peeking through the tacky veneer is duly noted throughout.

I'll only speak the slightest of plot as most folks are familiar with the story by now, if not from the stage version than at least via the film. The whole shbang is a sendup of 50s B horror films a la Roger Corman. Its over exaggerated style and characterization are expected and send audiences into a frenzy. At the very top Ronnette (Elizabeth Adabale), Crystal (Amanda Majkrzak) and Chiffon (Brittney S. Wheeler) sing up a storm a la Supremes and every other 50s/60s female singing group. They are just sensational and set the overblown silly tone for the whole show. Seymour (Brett Chapin) runs Mushnik's floral shop on Skid Row for Mr. Mushnik (Peter Miller), and as most everyone knows, is the fragile, nerdy owner of Audrey II, the man-eating plant that attracts attention, so much so that Mushnik and Seymour become rich and famous overnight. Audrey is dating a semi-sadist Orin Scrivello, DDS (Randy Brown) and so Seymour struggles for Audrey's attentions. Chapin has some really fine acting moments especially in Act II where he summons up the strength to turn all the offers down - or almost - in favor of some good, honest clean-living. Brown carries off the sexy abusive quality of Orin nicely, but his singing voice is rather weak and there is much difficulty with hearing anything in the "Now (It's Just the Gas)" number. In fact, in this production, the male voices fall for the most part below standard, as the female voices soar, with one exception that of John Devereaux who deliciously supplies the voice of Audrey II.

Thunderous thanks to director Michael-Anthony Nozzi who somehow manages to effectively stage this production with over 25 ensemble members... and for his contributions to creating, designing and building the puppets used in this show...and for his fine set design.

This is an enormous effort for Kentwood. They are to be lauded, especially producer Shari Barrett - who even manages to play a couple of characters onstage, musical director extraordinare Joshua Eli Kranz, the fab trio of female singers, and Kristin Towers-Rowles, who can proudly add another dynamite characterization to her acting repertoire. Visit Mushnik's today; it will vanish into thin air October 19...

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