Head to Skid Row for a safe but sound revival of the much-loved musical satire.
Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, the musical collaborators who wrote the songs for Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, first came to wide attention with this cult-fave 1982 musical about a nerd, a dame and a man-eating plant, adapted from a schlocky Roger Corman sci-fi comedy. Keeping the film’s 1960-ish setting, Menken and Ashman’s diabolically catchy tunes cash in on the era’s doo-wop sound.
Jonathan Berry’s revival for American Blues Theater doesn’t break much new ground but does truck in some new potting soil. Sarah E. Ross’s original puppet designs for Audrey II, the space-invading sentient flytrap that takes over the skid row flower shop where schlubby Seymour works, impressively innovate rather than aping past productions’ plant life. (Most Little Shops this little tend to rent their Audrey IIs readymade.)
Dara Cameron dominates the proceedings as a big-voiced, daringly brunette original Audrey, the shopgirl after whom lovesick Seymour (Cameron’s real-life husband Michael Mahler) names his botanical discovery; you can tell she relishes the opportunity to belt such clever favorites as “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Suddenly, Seymour.” Mahler traffics nicely, if more quietly, in nerdy charm, while the chorus of commentating street urchins—Jasondra Johnson, Camille Robinson and Eunice Woods—command their roles. Overall, Berry’s staging feels a bit unnecessarily safe for those used to seeing him find new ways in to classic musicals. But if this Little Shop doesn’t stock much new inventory, it’s still worth checking out its wares.
American Blues Theater at Greenhouse Theater Center. Book and lyrics by Howard Ashman. Music by Alan Menken. Directed by Jonathan Berry. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs; one intermission.