BWW Review: Phoenix Theatre Presents LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
Robert Kolby Harper, Phoenix Theatre's Associate Artistic Director, has conceived a thoroughly entertaining remake of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS ~ the cult classic that, like the plant at the core of its story, has a shelf life sans expiration date ~ and populated it with top of the line performers who shake the house with a rousing mix of doo wop, Gospel, and rock. The result is a distinctively clean and unadulterated production that gives latitude to the cast to exercise the full range of its talents, elevates every note and lyric, and allows for its interpretation as a parable about human foibles.
The staying power (nearly 60 years!) of this dark comic fantasy plus love story ~ with roots originating in a 1960's B movie that flowered into an '80's rock musical and a feature film spinoff ~ stems from a downright kooky and outlandish premise that contemplates the demise of humankind. It's not aliens from outer space or an extraterrestrial invasion of giant pods that threaten the human race. Instead, the deadly danger is an irrepressible, blood thirsty, trash-talking, self-propagating Venus fly trap that, ironically, surfaces just in the nick of time to save a Skid Row florist shop from sinking into insolvency, but, in due course (multiple sumptuous courses, actually), consumes everyone in its midst.
It takes a nebbish clerk, Seymour Krelbourne (Brian Golub) to save the day. As he and his Monroesque co-worker, Audrey (Kate E. Cook) are about to get the axe from Mr. Mushnik (Scott Davidson), the proprietor of said establishment, Seymour offers his newly purchased exotic plant as a curiosity that may draw customers back to the fold. As a tribute to the girl he secretly loves, Seymour dubs the plant Audrey II.
Seymour is a rescuer in more ways than one. As he realizes, drip by drip, the insatiable appetite of Audrey II (voiced by Antonio Leroy King), he sees a way to relieve Audrey of the abuse that she's suffering from her biker boy friend, a maniacal dentist whose histrionics are hysterically enacted by Toby Yatso. He does the deed without remorse, and so it goes, Orin Scrivello's severed parts swallowed by the horror's gaping maw.
Seymour and Audrey are a perfect match, each walking their own awkwardness, both seeking a way out of Skid Row, pending that revelatory moment when they discover their true connection. And, when they do, Golub and Cook bring the house down with a passionate and intense rendition of Suddenly, Seymour.
In the style of the ancient Greek chorus, three neighborhood dropouts ~ Alyssa Chiarello, Anne-Lisa Koyabe, and Brittney Mack ~ team up to narrate and comment on the story at the hand. With each entrance, dressed to the nines by Cari Smith, they sashay across the stage, belting out their tunes with gusto and panache. Their mixed messages are tantalizing and teasing: On the one hand, the meek shall inherit! On the other, a telltale warning, Don't feed the plants!
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS runs through June 10th in Phoenix Theatre's Mainstage.
Photo credit to Reg Madison