Lyric's "Little Shop": It Grows on You

Lovely Hoffman, Carla Martinez, Pier Lamia Porter, Katrina Z Pavao & Dan Prior in "Little Shop of Horrors"
(photo: Mark S. Howard)

Beware all living things: Little Shop of Horrors is back (at Boston's Lyric Stage), with a vengeance. She’s green and mean, this cousin of the Venus fly trap. A true pistil-packing momma, she’s the horticultural star of this former off-Broadway hit (of the 1982 season, with a five year run, winning the New York Drama Critics and Outer Circle Critics Best Musical Awards), based on a much-beloved, campy cult black and white 1960 film by Director Roger Corman (the king of the low-budget B movies) and Screenwriter Charles Griffith. It ultimately became a 1986 film musical, and was revived on Broadway in 2003. Most prophetically, it was the first mega success of novice creators Alan Menken (Score) and the late Howard Ashman (Book and Lyrics), who would go on to “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast”. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.

“Little Shop”, only their second work together, was a loving tribute in farce to the horror movie genre, spoofing 60’s rock and roll, doo-wop, and Motown sound, television sitcoms, and several other targets. Ashman’s book and lyrics were filled with intentionally outrageous puns (for example, referring to the character of a sadistic dentist as the “leader of the plaque”). Some of his other references (“Father Knows Best”, “The Donna Reed Show”, “December Bride” and even “Howdy Doody”) may not resonate with younger audience members today, but most of their fang-in-cheek humor is timeless, as treated with uncanny affection by Director/Choreographer Rachel Bertone and Music Director Dan Rodriguez.

Katrina Z Pavao & Audrey II in "Little Shop of Horrors"
(photo: Mark S. Howard)

Ah, and this cast. Seymour Krelborn (Dan Prior) is the ultimate nerd working in a struggling flower shop; his innocent mimicking of his co-worker Audrey’s accent (living in “the guttah”) is a hoot. Katrina Z Pavao plays Audrey (the part played so memorably by Ellen Greene in both the original production and the film musical) with the perfect tone of the clueless bimbo, with her boyfriend Orin the Dentist (Jeff Marcus). Standouts were the three “urchins”, Chiffon (Pier Lamia Porter), Crystal (Lovely Hoffman), and Ronnette (Carla Martinez), a sort of Greek chorus. Also terrific was Mr. Mushnik, the owner of the flower shop (Remo Airaldi). And then there was “Audrey II” (puppeteer Tim Hoover, voiced by Yewande Odetoyinbo). Don't overlook that unforgettable villain’s cry, “Feed me!”, oxymoronically, from a hysterically hammy plant. How “Audrey II” miraculously appears, unites Seymour and Audrey, grows, and forever changes the lives of most of the cast, is best left for audience members to discover. Suffice it to say that Pavao alone is worth the price of admission; her Audrey is plain priceless, as are the wonderful Scenic Design by Janie E. Howland, exhuberant Costume Design by Marion Bertone, Lighting Design by Franklin Meissner Jr., Sound Design by Andrew Duncan Will and Puppetry Design by Cameron McEachern (an essential element to say the least).

Dan Prior & Katrina Z Pavao in "Little Shop of Horrors"
(photo: Mark S. Howard)

A disclaimer might be in order here: “Little Shop” is one of this reviewer’s all-time favorite shows. Thus it was a relief to find it recreated and refreshed by trust in the material, which truly paid off. Those familiar only with the film musical version will note some differences; here there is no masochistic dental patient (as in both film versions), and, most significantly, a darker ending. Audrey II is about to take over the world. As one character puts it earlier in the show, “you’re not in Kansas anymore”. She is, after all, an omnivore, devouring actors, audiences, theater critics....and even on one's fifth viewing, it grows on you. (In fact this may well be the best version yet seen). It's a stupendous start for Lyric Stage's season.

One piece of sage advice sung at the end of the show (performed through October 6th) bears repeating: “Don’t feed the plants!”

No comments:

Post a Comment