note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Sheila Barth
That alien, huge, evil, man-eating plant is alive and well, gobbling up more victims, gags, and applause at New Repertory Theatre’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors”. The musical stage hit, which was originally a low-budget film in 1960, remade as an award-winning, offbeat, off-Broadway stage musical in 1982 (and remade into a bigger-budget movie that received a lukewarm response) was vibrantly revived on stages since then, leaving New Rep audiences asking for more. By popular demand, “Little Shop of Horrors,” slated to close May 20, has been extended to May 27.
“Little Shop of Horrors” is a fun, farcical romp into the rhythmic rock ‘n’ roll, Motown, doo wop world of song, that has a deeper, darker side – a Faustian, sci-fi theme, in which simple Seymour makes a pact with a personification of evil that eventually consumes him.
Besides Peter Colao’s two-tiered, grimy Skid Row set that rotates with indoor-outdoor scenery and Music Director Todd C. Gordon playing keyboard, along with his four talented musicians, this production boasts an Equity cast and ensemble that savors every drop of this gory, carnivorous, two-hour dark musical comedy.
Director-choreographer Russell Garrett has hand-picked a fun cast: Blake Pfeil as klutzy, schlemele florist shop employee Seymour; veteran actor-New Rep favorite, Paul D. Farwell, as Mr. Mushkin, owner of the drab, dying florist shop, and shapely Susan Molloy as Audrey, Seymour’s sexy co-worker, whom he loves. Farwell incorporates Yiddish schtick as Mushkin, “oy veying” away, while Molloy wiggles and warbles a’ la Marilyn Monroe. Backed by ever-present trio Chiffon (Jennifer Fogerty), Crystal (Lovely Hoffman) and Ronnette (Ceit McCaleb Zweil), Audrey is charmingly self-effacing, singing her hopes for a small home in the suburbs, “Somewhere That’s Green”.
Besides playing Orin Scrivello, (Audrey’s abusive, sado-masochistic, pain-inflicting, nitrous oxide-inhaling dentist boyfriend), Bill Mootos is ubiquitous in lesser roles. Award-winning actor Timothy John Smith is deliciously Faustian as the voice of plant Audrey II, screaming and singing for more food in “Feed Me,” “Suppertime,” then revealing his plot to consume and take over the world. Smith also surprises theatergoers as a down-and-out Skid Row derelict, paper-bagged bottle in hand, in ensemble opening number, “Skid Row (Downtown)”.
Besides the growing, giant blood-thirsty, secretly carnivorous plant Seymour created (which Timothy P. Hoover manipulates with dextrous skill and zeal), nebbish Seymour’s fame and confidence grow as the plant gains national attention. So are Mushkin’s profits, as he happily renovates the seedy-looking shop.
The play moves along swiftly as the three teen-age girl school dropouts musically narrate and accompany numbers from center stage and upper rafters. At times, they overly dominate and are overused, though.
Regardless, theatergoers are savoring this show, with its cornucopia of laughs and gags, Menken’s award-winning, hummable, nostalgic music and Ashman’s clever lyrics, highlighting days of I Love Lucy, Donna Reed, Sominex and Vitalis. These references may elude younger audiences, but older folks eat ‘em up.
BOX INFO: Two-act dark musical comedy, lyrics, book by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken, based on the film by Roger Corman and screenplay by Charles Griffith. Extended through May 27 in the Charles Mosesian Theatre, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown. Performances: May 23,24, at 7:30 p.m.; May 25,26, at 8 p.m.; May 27, at 2 p.m. Tickets:$28-$58; seniors, $7 off; student rush, $20. Call 617-923-8487 or visit www.newrep.org