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Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Village Theatre

Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Village Theatre

Some great performances but a show that lacks bite.

Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Village Theatre
Shanelle Nicole Leonard, Nick Watson, and
Kyle Nicholas Anderson in Village Theatre's
Little Shop of Horrors.
Photo credit: Angela Sterling

Howard Ashman and Alan Menken's "Little Shop of Horrors" is arguably one of those near perfect musicals. I will argue with you on this from now until the plants take over the earth as it remains my absolute favorite. But it needs to be done right. That's not to say it needs to be done the same way every time. One of the best productions I saw was a modern retelling set in a real skid row. But this B-movie sci-fi adaptation needs to have that humor, that crispness, and that bite to make it work. And while the current production from Village Theatre has some wonderful performances and voices, it suffers from a lack of pace and that crispness and bite to take it from a fun show to a killer one.

Based on a 1960 B-movie that featured, believe it or not, Jack Nicholson in a small role, we focus on Mushnik's Skid Row Florists. A flower shop run by Mr. Mushnik (Eric Polani Jensen), his assistant Audrey (Shanelle Nicole Leonard), and his clumsy shop boy Seymore (Kyle Nicholas Anderson). Business is not good, and the shop is going under until Seymore puts out this strange and unusual plant he's been tending and suddenly they have nothing but success. But Seymore soon finds there's a price to his luck as this sentient plant only wants one type of plant food, blood. But since the fame and fortune are too good and now Audrey is noticing him, Seymore gives in to the demands of the newly named "Audrey II" (voiced by Kennedy Salters and operated by John David Scott). But when is the price too high?

Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Village Theatre
Shanelle Nicole Leonard, Kyle Nicholas Anderson,
Ania Briggs, Belle Shippy, and Brandi Birdsong
in Village Theatre's Little Shop of Horrors.
Photo credit: Angela Sterling

It's quirky, funny, with great songs and fantastic characters. Like I said, a near perfect show and I've seen many productions over the years that run the spectrum of amazing to "what were you thinking". And while Village's is a far cry from a WTF with some wonderful performances, it's got issues. The pace in the show should be deliberate like a runaway train but they never quite get up to full speed. I'm not saying director Brandon Ivie wasn't keeping things clipping along but the energy, which should be building, kept getting sapped. There was the big love song duet, that one of the lovers sang out to the audience and the other sang back in the shadows as if he were one of the backup singers. Both of the leads, have fantastic voices and great characters but they never seemed to be in the show together. Which could be said of most of the cast. At least Salters has an excuse since she's never actually on stage with the rest of them. And while I loved the choice of the female voice as the plant, and while she nailed the vocals, I didn't always feel the menace from her.

The trio of urchins (Brandi Birdsong, Ania Briggs, and Belle Shippy) each brought in some incredible vocals but lacked the character and presence needed for this Greek chorus that pops up throughout the show. They're practically the narrators of the piece but never brought in the edge the girls need and lacked the precision of movement this Doo Wop girl group needed. Choreographer Randy Ford's moves were not all that complicated (or inspired for that matter) yet they were phoning them in.

Similarly, Nick Watson as the demented dentist Orin (as well as many other characters) brought in some fun to the roles but never made them shine. Jensen, Leonard, and Anderson probably had the best handle on their characters but whether it was a lack of pacing or commitment, often felt like they were pushing that large fun boulder up that insurmountable hill ... through molasses.

The show just didn't quite click in the way others I've seen have. Not bad by any stretch of the imagination, just not great. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Village Theatre's production of "Little Shop of Horrors" a lackluster MEH+. A large man eating plant on stage may be a big spectacle, but this show still needs that special something behind it.

"Little Shop of Horrors" performs at the Village Theatre in Issaquah through October 23rd before moving to their Everett location running October 28th through November 20th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.villagetheatre.org.




From This Author - Jay Irwin

         Born and raised in Seattle, WA, Jay has been a theater geek for years.  He attends as many shows as he can around the country and loves taking in new exciting... (read more about this author)


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Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s “Little Shop of Horrors” is arguably one of those near perfect musicals. I will argue with you on this from now until the plants take over the earth as it remains my absolute favorite. But it needs to be done right. That’s not to say it needs to be done the same way every time. One of the best productions I saw was a modern retelling set in a real skid row. But this B-movie sci-fi adaptation needs to have that humor, that crispness, and that bite to make it work. And while the current production from Village Theatre has some wonderful performances and voices, it suffers from a lack of pace and that crispness and bite to take it from a fun show to a killer one.