Little Shop Of Horrors
At The Lyric Stage
Will Grow On You
Review: Little Shop of Horrors
Directed by Rachel Bertone
At The Lyric Stage
Copley Square, Boston
Through October 6
Reviewed by Bobby Franklin
Little Shop Of Horrors, the rock and roll musical based on the 1960 cult film of the same name has shown incredible legs. It first appeared Off-Off-Broadway in 1982, moving to Off-Broadway, and then finally to a full Broadway run. It is as fresh today as it was then. The wonderful score which is based on a combination of Rock and Roll, Motown, and the girl groups of the early 1960s is the kind of music that has audiences tapping their feet and experiencing ear-worms as they leave the theatre.
Little Shop Of Horrors is an ideal musical with which to begin the 45th season at the Lyric Stage in Boston, and it gets the full Lyric treatment from Director/Choreographer Rachel Bertone. Set in Mushnick’s Florist shop on Skid Row in New York, the set, designed by Janie E. Howland, is inviting with various hues of green. Add in Dan Rodriguez as Music Director along with costumes by Marian Bertone and lighting by Franklin Messner Jr and you have a must see production that is nothing short of sensational.
Remo Airaldi plays Mr. Mushnik, the florist who is struggling to stay in business while employing two workers, the hapless Seymour Krelborn (Dan Prior) and Audrey (Katrina Z. Pavao). Just when Mushnik is about to close up shop for good, Seymour reveals a “strange and interesting plant” he has been nurturing. The plant is put on display in the window of the flower shop and business begins to boom. There is just one problem; the plant named Audery II by Seymour, has a strange dietary requirement. The Venus Flytrap style vegetation desires human beings rather than houseflies. This all makes for an interesting story that combines Science Fiction and musical comedy all flavored by the 1960’s rock theme. This formula makes for two hours of great fun.
Chiffon (Pier Lamia), Crystal (Lovely Hoffman), and Ronnette (Carla Martinez) perform as a Girl Group version of a Greek Chorus and get things off to a strong start with the title tune. Moving through various homages to the music of the early Rock years, they touch on such memorable groups as the Ronettes and the Supremes. In both shimmering and taffeta dresses that invoke the period, they are outstanding while performing from various spots on the stage including the two balconies, one on each side. The score is well crafted and gives all the flavor of the period while also remaining original.
Katrina Z. Pavao as Audrey, the sweet girl who has been finding love in all the wrong palces, displays wonderful acting skills along with a singing voice that delights. On Somewhere That’s Green she takes us on a nostalgic trip through the 1950s complete with mentions of Betty Crocker and I Love Lucy. Corny? Not really. Ms Pavao delivers it with a soft warmth that is touching. She brings a depth to her character that transcends the comedy. Yes, she is quite funny, but also a very sympathetic character. It would be easy to play Audrey as a ditz, but Ms Pavao takes it much further and displays wonderful talent. This is her Audrey.
Audrey is in an abusive relationship with a sadistic dentist (is there any other kind?) played by Jeff Marcus,and a black eye and a broken arm make for some moments that are very dark. Mr. Marcus plays multiple roles and uses many different voices, not an easy task. His rendition of Be A Dentist with backup by Lovely, Crystal, and Ronnette is painfully funny as he describes taking his mother’s career advice; “Son, you have a talent for giving pain, be a dentist”. If you’re an anti-dentite, after seeing the dreaded chair and drill on stage this will only fuel your hatred. Ouch!
Dan Prior as Seymour fits into his role as if it were a suit tailored especially for him. His timing is perfect, and his interactions with Remo Airaldi’s Mushnik work very well. As usual, Mr. Airaldi does not disappoint. I still remember his terrific performance in last year’s SpeakEasy production of Shakespeare In Love. There is a degree of abuse in the relationship between Mushnik and Seymour as well, and it is that common trait shared by Audrey and Seymour that draws them together. They both lack in self-esteem and find love as they see the good in each other, and express it in Suddenly Seymour. It is a touching and sweet number as the two open up to one another.
There is one other character not to be overlooked, a certain plant that eventually takes center stage and has a voracious appetite. Audrey II has four incarnations as the play progresses. The creation of puppet designer Cameron McEachern, Audrey II is simply amazing. Growing from a small potted plant sipping on blood to a full grown man-eating creature, it is a marvel to see. Tim Hoover inhabits the large version and moves it in synch with the words spoken and sung by Yewande Odetoyinbo.
It is fascinating to watch Mr. McEchern’s creation in action as it swallows people whole. After the performance I attended had concluded, audience members lined up at the stage to stare at Audrey II who was still on display. The plant that drew spectators to Mushnik Florist had that same pull at the Lyric. People were fascinated by it, I know I was. What a piece of work is this plant.
The Lyric Stage’s Little Shop of Horrors is theatrical perfection from top to bottom. Don’t miss it. I doubt a better production of it has ever been done, nor will there be one to top it in the future.