Sunday, July 21, 2013

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS • Stray Dog Theatre

Roger Corman's 1960 low-budget cult classic about a nebbishy flower shop employee named Seymour who raises a carnivorous plant, inspired a long-running off-Broadway production with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken.  This spawned another popular film adaptation in 1986 and a 2003 Broadway revival.  Under Justin Been's direction, it's getting a scrumptious treatment at Stray Dog, closing out its tenth season with another solid production.

The cast is led by a marvelous Ben Watts who plays Seymour Krelborn, the orphan stuck in Mr. Mushnik's Skid Row flower shop.  As the unlikely hero of this dark comedy, Watts brings his vocal talents and ability to deftly disappear into any role.  Love him.  Our Greek chorus -- Chiffon (Jamie Lynn Marble), Crystal (Maria Bartolotta) and Ronette (a priceless Mark Saunders in drag), all equipped with good voices and attitude, kick off the show with a rousing "Little Shop of Horrors" and appear throughout, commenting on and engaging in the action.

Lindsey Jones (Audrey), Christopher R. Brenner (Mr. Mushnik)
and Ben Watts (Seymour Krelborn).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Business at the flower shop isn't going too well and Mr. Mushnik (Christopher R. Brenner), is considering closing up shop, but Seymour has an idea to help perk up sales.  He brings out a plant he's been cultivating after it appeared following an eclipse of the sun, and places it in the front window.  Nobody has seen anything like this flytrap looking oddity, and it immediately starts to draw some attention.  Seymour has named the plant Audrey Two, after the co-worker he longs for.  Lindsey Jones is endearingly sweet with a beautiful voice as Audrey, a blonde wide-eyed ingénue who dreams of having her own little patch of the world in a nice sub-division someday.

(top left) Mark Saunders (Ronette), (bottom left)
Jamie Lynn Marble (Chiffon), Maria Bartolotta (Crystal) and
Ben Watts (Seymour Krelborn)
Photo credit: John Lamb
Unfortunately, she's dating an asshole named Orin Scrivello (Keith Thompson).  Thompson gives this sadistic, nitrous oxide sniffing, leather jacket clad dentist enough swagger to add a rock-star quality to his number, "Dentist!", and is abusive enough to make you savor his eventual demise.  Seymour soon learns that the plant is after more than fertilizer.  Audrey Two, smoothly voiced by Jeremy Sims, wants flesh and blood.  As the plant's voracious appetite grows, so does her size, and the shop becomes well-known.  After Seymour is courted by television execs and botanical bigwigs, Mr. Mushnik knows that if Seymour and Audrey Two leave the shop, he'll be ruined.  Brenner shines in "Mushnik and Son", where he offers to adopt Seymour and make him a business partner.  Will Seymour succumb to the trappings of fame and Audrey Two's blood-thirsty demands in a quest for world domination?  You'll have to see for yourself!

Maria Bartolotta (Crystal), Jamie Lynn Marble (Chiffon)
and Mark Saunders (Ronette).
Photo credit: John Lamb
The ensemble members, playing various roles, sound strong in numbers like, "Skid Row (Downtown)" and the show's finale, "Don't Feed the Plants", and Marble's choreography adds a great deal of flair to the show.  Costume designer Alexandra Scibetta Quigley keeps our trio of street urchins decked out in an array of dresses and the rest of the cast in nicely appointed attire.  David Blake's scenic design includes a set that rotates to show the interior of the flower shop, and makes good use of the space onstage with sharp attention to detail -- all carefully lit by Tyler Duenow.  Michelle Sauer and Justin Been designed the Audrey Two puppets that get more and more hilarious as it grows.  (Audrey Two actually looks a lot more herbaceous than the photo.)  The band, under the direction of Chris Petersen, was tight and easily handled the 1960's rock and Motown flavored score.

I'd never seen this musical before, and I'm glad I got the chance to check it out.  You should, too!  It's playing until August 3rd.


(center) Keith Thompson (Orin Scrivello). (l to r)
Mark Saunders (Ronette), Jamie Lynn Marble (Chiffon)
and Maria Bartolotta (Crystal).
Photo credit: John Lamb
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

Book/lyrics by Howard Ashman
Music by Alan Menken
Directed by Justin Been
Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave.
through August 3 | tickets: $18 - $20
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, final Saturday at 2pm & 8pm

Cast:
Lindsey Jones (Audrey), Ben Watts (Seymour Krelborn), Keith Thompson (Orin Scrivello), Christopher R. Brenner (Mr. Mushnik), Jamie Lynn Marble (Chiffon), Maria Bartolotta (Crystal), Mark Saunders (Ronette), Jeremy Sims (Voice of Audrey Two), Evan R. Fornachon (Ensemble), Corey Fraine (Ensemble), Amelia Morse Kolkmeyer (Ensemble) and Kimberly Still (Ensemble).

Creative:
Scenic design by David Blake; lighting design by Tyler Duenow; costume design by Alexandra Scibetta Quigley; makeup and wig design by Priscilla Case; plant operator, Dan Jones; style consultant to Mr. Saunders, Jeffrey Salger; Audrey Two makeup design by Michelle Sauer and Justin Been; music and vocal direction by Chris Petersen; choreography by Jamie Lynn Marble; stage manager, Justin Been.

Little Shop Band:
Director/keyboard, Chris Petersen; drums/percussion (July 18 - 20) Clarence Newell; drums/percussion (July 25 - August 3) Bob McMahon; electric bass, Michael Monsey; guitar (acoustic and electric) Adam Rugo; synthesizer, Sallie Du Maine.

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