Little Shop of Horrors
Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman, Music by Alan Menken, Directed and Choreographed by Russell Garrett, Musical Direction by Todd C. Gordon; Peter Colao, Scenic Design; Frances Nelson McSherry, Costume Design; Franklin Meissner, Jr., Lighting Design; Paul Perry, Sound Design; Lauren L. Duffy, Properties Design; Jayscott Crosley, Production Stage Manager
CAST (in order of appearance): Jennifer Fogarty (Chiffon), Lovely Hoffman (Crystal), Ceit McCaleb Zweil (Ronnette), Paul D. Farwell (Mushnik), Susan Molloy (Audrey), Blake Pfeil (Seymour), Timothy John Smith (Denizens of Skid Row, voice of Audrey II), Bill Mootos (Denizens of Skid Row, Orin the Dentist, Bernstein, Snip, Luce, and everyone else), Timothy P. Hoover (Denizens of Skid Row, manipulation of Audrey II)
Performances now extended through May 27 at New Repertory Theatre, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA; Box Office 617-923-8487 or www.newrep.org
It began as a small, hurriedly-produced black and white B-movie in 1959 that became an Off-Broadway musical hit in 1982, which spawned a twenty-five million dollar star-studded film in 1986 that made a big splash upon its video release. In similar fashion to the nefarious carnivorous plant at the center of its story, Little Shop of Horrors is on a long, deliberate path to conquer the world…of stage and screen. Now, add New Repertory Theatre in Watertown to the army of proselytizers planting the seed of its sentimental, satirical message among unsuspecting audiences.
There is no denying that Little Shop is a fun show with period music and evocative images that transport the viewer to Skid Row and the bleak existence of its denizens. Making his New Rep directorial debut, Russell Garrett and his team of designers have crafted a production that is visually and technically spot on, with Musical Direction by Todd C. Gordon and a cast that is vocally up to the task. Peter Colao’s set depicts run-down buildings framing an alley that flips to reveal the interior of Mushnik’s Flower Shop. Franklin Meissner, Jr.’s lighting design shows the dinginess and danger lurking in these mean streets, and helps to brightly transform the shop when the financial tide turns in its favor.
A Greek chorus of three women sharing the names of girl groups of the 60s (Chiffon, Crystal, and Ronnette) hang around the alley and offer commentary on the events of the story. Jennifer Fogarty, Lovely Hoffman, and Ceit McCaleb Zweil combine their voices in tight harmonies and strut around the stage like neighborhood toughs. Paul D. Farwell is gruff with a soft underbelly as Mushnik, the proprietor of the down-on-its-luck shop, until his underling, zhlubby Seymour Krellborn (Blake Pfeil in his New Rep debut) nurtures an exotic plant that draws attention and business. Unbeknownst to its admirers, the plant dubbed Audrey II (in honor of Seymour’s co-worker) thrives on human blood and tests the boy’s resourcefulness to find new food sources once his own stores have been tapped.
Attired in less than fashionable clothing and nerdy horn rimmed glasses, Pfeil inhabits the insecure character who grows into a mensch. He has a sweet voice that takes on power when he duets with Timothy John Smith as the voice of Audrey II (“Feed Me”) and blends well with the original Audrey (Susan Molloy), as well. Molloy makes her sympathetic in spite of looking like a streetwalker, poured into a short black dress. Audrey is a woman with few resources, dependent upon the crumbs of affection thrown her way by her abusive boyfriend, the sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello (Bill Mootos). Molloy elicits our understanding by getting at the hopeful heart of her otherwise pathetic character. However, she does appear to be a bit of a cougar in the central romance with Pfeil.