BWW Review: Contemporary Theater Company's Delightful LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
When it comes to Halloween season musicals, few are as appropriate as LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS - an ever growing plant with a taste for human blood, a sadistic dentist, and the potential loss of everything you've ever dreamed of? There's plenty to feel uneasy about. Fortunately the show balances out the potential terror with a sizeable dose of charm and humor, both ably represented in the Contemporary Theater Company's (CTC) production of Little Shop, playing through November 18th at their space in downtown Wakefield, Rhode Island.
A tricky part of performing Little Shop are the inevitable comparisons theatergoers are apt to make with either the very memorable original off-Broadway cast, with Lee Wilkof as Seymour and Ellen Greene as Audrey, or even more likely, with the 1986 film containing iconic performances by Rick Moranis, Steve Martin, Levi Stubbs, and Ellen Greene reprising her stage role.
Fortunately, the CTC's cast are able to put their own unique spin on every role and it helps that everyone is in fine voice, so important in this harmony laden score (and well supported by a small live band led by Music Director Jean Maxon-Carpenter). Dean Hernandez is believably awkward as Seymour without portraying him as a stereotypical nerd. Similar can be said of Sophia Pearson's Audrey, demonstrating that it's possible to convey the bewildered but kindhearted Audrey without a squeaky voice and heavy Brooklyn accent. Their rendition of the Act II ballad "Suddenly Seymour" is heartfelt and thrilling. Brad Kirton appears to have a gleefully evil time as Dr. Orin Scrivello, DDS. While Mr. Mushnik may not be thought of as a stand-out role within in the show, Jeffrey Ouellette makes it one - his duet with Hernandez, "Mushnik and Sons," was easily one of the highlights of the first act. The three "street urchins," Crystal, Chiffon, and Ronnette, (Jess Ring, Alijah Ileana Dickinson, and Morayo Akande respectively) and the Ensemble make good use of the variety of spaces and aisles in and around the set and are also energetic and effective in their variety of roles throughout the show.
Audrey II (aka the plant) is well voiced by Jason Quinn, who was the winner of the inaugural season of CTC's own "Wakefield Idol." The variety of Audrey II puppets were designed and created from scratch by Rebecca Magnotta, who also serves as the puppeteer. Her work is commendable, especially once the plant is at its largest and begins to feast. One simple fix to the "medium sized" Audrey II, however, would have been covering up the puppeteer's hands and feet with socks or stockings, rather than letting them hang freely, almost making it look as though the plant is not-too-subtly providing hints about its preferred food source early on.
While the actual stage serves as Mushnik's shop, as mentioned, the cast utilizes the full space around the platform, including the aisles and space near the auditorium's main entrance. This is mostly fine, however one key scene between the dentist and Seymour is staged in such a way that, depending upon where one is sitting, it may be impossible to fully view the action. Fortunately, there were few other moments where this was the case.
The Contemporary Theater Company's Little Shop of Horrors is a fun and well-performed show, definitely worth the trip down to South County. Remaining performances take place November 3rd, 8th-10th, 15th-17th at 7 pm, and November 4th, 11th, and 18th at 2 pm. Tickets for adults are $25, $15 for students, and Senior Day Sundays are $18. Tickets for the show are available on the theater's website www.contemporarytheatercompany.com or by calling the Box Office at 401-218-0282.