BWW Review: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at Constellation Theatre Company
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics and book by Howard Ashman (the duo behind Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST), is an Eighties Baby and a cult classic; an irreverent and bizarre rock-n-roll musical comedy tribute to sci-fi and horror.
As the lights dim in Constellation Theatre's cozy black box theater, a voice warns tells of "a deadly threat to [humanity's] very existence." Cutting through the dire dialogue, the incongruously quaffed Crystal (Chani Wereley), Ronette (Alana S. Thomas), and Chiffon (Selena Clyne-Galindo) deliver the prologue. A purposefully campy tribute to Mowtown, "Little Shop of Horrors" warns the audience to "beware!" of the Little Shop of Horrors. (You've been warned!)
Seymour Krelborn (Christian Montgomery) is merely a meek florist's assistant in a failing flower shop on Skid Row when he discovers an exotic and "curious" plant after a total eclipse of the sun. Seymour names his plant the Audrey II (or "Twoey) in honor of Audrey (Teresa Quigley Danskey), the shop's down-on-her-luck receptionist. A damsel in distress, Audrey is in the thrall of the abusive, sadistic, nitrous-oxide-addicted dentist, Orin Scrivello, DDS (Scott Ward Abernethy).
The shop's owner, Mr. Mushnik (stage veteran Robert John Biedermann), a verbally abusive grump, gives Twoey pride of place in the shop window in a last-ditch attempt to attract business. And it works! Before long the shop is humming with business. Seymour's only reservation: Twoey thrives on human blood. As the days pass, Twoey's cravings for human flesh intensifies and Seymour's quandary grows. Will Seymour kill Twoey and save humanity or will he pursue Twoey's promise of fame, fortune, and love with Audrey?
The star of the performance is Twoey. Four iterations of the ever-growing monster plant grace the stage. Designed by MattaMagical (Matthew Aldwin McGee), brought to life by puppeteer Rj Pavel, and voiced by Marty Austin Lamar, Twoey is an undeniable feat of artistry. Lamar's vocal prowess and Pavel's puppetry are seamlessly choreographed.
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS features an outstanding cast of comedians and vocalists. Wereley, Thomas, and Clyne-Galindo are the beating heart of this production. Known collectively as the "street urchins", Crystal, Romette, and Chiffon are ever-present and ever-ready to dispense their street-wise wisdom.
Abernethy's performance of "Now (It's Just the Gas)" in Costume Designer Labovitz's glowing nitrous-oxide gas helmet is a high-energy dose of the truly bizarre. Montgomery and Danskey hold-up well against the more eccentric characters sharing the stage.
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS's musical complexity is hampered by this cast's steadfast commitment to belting. Constellation Theatre's theater is an intimate space, and the decision to individually mic the entire cast results in an overly loud and musically muddled company numbers ("Skid Row (Downtown)" and "The Meek Shall Inherit").
Scenic Designer A.J. Guban's set is subtly complex. His multi-leveled set and a maze of entrances and exists create interest. Where he really shines is in the small details, for example the tufts of grass that push through the cement sidewalk, which set the tone for the entire performance.
Director Nick Martin works in tandem with Guban to take full advantage the set. His cast constantly in motion, resulting in a spectacle with real momentum. Constellation Theatre's LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS practically flies by.
If you crave a dose of Halloween vibes, Constellation Theatre Company's LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is just the ticket. Trust me, I would never be out of bed past 9 p.m. for anything less than wonderful.
Photo Credit: Audrey II (Rj Pavel), Christian Montgomery, and Teresa Quigley Danskey in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. Photo by Cameron Whitman Photography.
Running Time: 2 hours, including one 15-minute intermission.
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS plays through November 17th at Constellation Theatre Company located at 1835 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009. For tickets click here.