BWW Reviews: Milwaukee's LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Still Seduces Audiences

By: Jun. 17, 2015

A little bit of science fiction, a little bit rock 'n roll, All in Productions revisits the 1980's Broadway Musical Little Shop of Horrors based on Roger Corman's 1960 film this summer in Milwaukee. Next Act Theatre offers their intimate stage to the fledging company that gives the production, now 50 years old, spirited soul. To get the audeince in the appropirate mood, when entering the theater, vagrant persons roam through the audience before the performance opens---The Mushnik Flowerl Shop stands amid New York's Skid Row. The raggedy characters beg for money, talk to the audience and pull at their shirts similar to someone experiencing a schizophrenic episode.

When a strange plant fed on human blood changes the fate of the Flower Shop and surrounding neighborhood, the chorus of Chiffon, Crystal and Ronette give Howard Ashmen's book and lyrics along with Alan Menken's singable tunes rock ' roll quality. The play resonates with retro appeal in this decade while remaining timelessly relevant with the themes of alien plant life and unrequited love between Seymour, the clumsy, unsophisticated store clerk, and Audrey, the receptionist who's abused by her sadistic dentist boyfriend Orin.

Mara McGhee's direction gives the production plenty of lively soul with her chosen chorus surrounding the downtrodden Seymour and his story, essential performanes in the production.. Katie Behrend Berg, Raven Dockery and Ashley Levells playing Chiffon, Crystal and Ronette, respectively and give the lyrics and music there undivided enthusiasm. Karl Miller creates catchy choreography for the show while a live, ten piece orchestra under the direction of Colleen Schmidt sounds incredibly professional for the smaller space.

Erica Brown adds innocence and a lady-like quaility with an equally musical voice to Audrey, that complements James Carrington's wishful Seymour. Burt Gross, puppeteer, and Doug Clemons, voice, literally inhabit the eventually giant plant Audrey !!, the star of the show, with amazing presence. McGhee adds two additional actors so Audrey's branches, limbs, literally dance in the show.. David Wortz, also playing multiple roles, comes alive as Audrey's painful dentist boyfriend with a devilish rocker attitude, while Robert A. Zimmerman adds the maturity in this youthful cast in the role of Mushnik. Combined, impressive acting, musical and technical skills whcih make the show come alive.

All In Productions continues the original Broadway production ending instead of the film's happier finale, which bodes well in the 21st century, when more people than ever believe there dreams become more unattainable. The audience can decide if Seymour's dreams of fame and fortune were worth the sacrifices he made...In a world driven by media and the latest "new" celebrity, broadcast 24/7, on Instagram and twitter, one wonders what a sensation a similar alien plant or person might cause today. Would this society be completely unaware as Seymour was to the danger lurking in these strange events?

Seen through the light of contemporary culture, individuals still wish for their ultimate dreams, when sometimes the best can be standing right before their eyes. Seymour might have loved Audrey even without the notieriety his destructive plant afforded. Some stories and tales add new meanings when they cure like a fine wine over time, especailly in science fiction, while others lose their luster. Yes, Menken and Howard's musical remains as charming and clever as when first produced. Little Shop of Horrors remembers those places "Somewhere that's Green," in a world continually being built over with parking lots and concrete while perhaps the "The Meek Shall Inherit," although money seems more crucial than ever to a person's survival. What a great summer to give the city that little bit of rock, a little soul and All in Production's A Little Shop of Horrors show.

All In Productions presents A Little Shop of Horrors at Next Act Theatre at 255 North Water Street through June 20, For tickets or information, please cal 414.732.0347.