Sunday, October 13, 2019

Review of "Little Shop of Horrors"

Just in time for the Halloween season, the musical Little Shop of Horrors is back with a highly enjoyable, thoroughly entertaining production at A Connecticut Theatre (ACT) in Ridgefield, CT.  The sci-fi spoof, centering on a rather large man-eating plant, is based on Roger Corman’s 1960 cult film classic. 

The plot centers on Seymour (Robb Sapp), an unassuming employee at a run down flower shop on New York’s Skid Row.  His co-worker Audrey (Laura Woyasz) is a beauty with low self-esteem and a sadistic boyfriend (Daniel C. Levine) employed as a dentist.  The two toil away at Mushnik’s (William Thomas Evans) shabby establishment awaiting any type of customer.  One day Seymour unveils a plant purchased under mysterious circumstances that soon attracts shoppers because of its uniqueness.  Business begins to boom and Seymour becomes more self-assured, but there is one small problem.  Regular plant food won’t suffice.  As its true diet is revealed, and its hunger and growth dramatically increase,  the lives of everyone in the Skid Row shop becomes topsy-turvy with unsettling consequences.

Little Shop of Horrors is a fun, tuneful show.  To be successful, flawless casting is essential and this production makes the mark.  All the principle actors take their roles to heart, delivering two hours of merriment, mayhem and songful pleasures.  Robb Sapp is appropriately nerdy and consistently in the dumps as Seymour.  But his energetic performance helps transform the character into someone a bit less pathetic and more believing in himself.  The actor’s scenes with the Audrey II are absurdly realistic.   Laura Woyasz imbues Audrey with a disconsolate and somewhat meek demeanor at first, but she also shows some spunk as the wistful, heart-of-gold co-worker and secret love of Seymour.  William Thomas Evans is sufficiently belligerent and demanding as the hard-bitten, downtrodden Mr. Mushnik.  Daniel C. Levine infuses Orin the dentist with just the amount of degenerate fiendishness without being too over-the-top.  Levine played the role in the 1987 Broadway national tour of the show and gleefully seems to relish his return to the debauched character.  The threesome of Kadrea Dawkins (Chiffon), Ashley Alexandra Seldon (Crystal), and Rachelle Legrand (Ronnette) form a winning mini Greek chorus.  Their full-throttled singing and overall presence give the production a continuous amount of zip and luster.  Even with a superior acting group Little Shop of Horrors would not work without a colorful, boisterous Audrey II.  Thankfully, the team of Kent Overshown (voice of AudredyII) and puppeteer Thomas Bergamo form a dynamic union that gives the growing plant a believability that is both engaging and somewhat scary.

The score by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken is witty, playful, and melodic and can be quite hilarious.  These are the two men behind such Disney animated classics at The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.  The songs in this show run the gamut of genres from do-wop, yearning ballads, comedic gems and, let’s just say, unusual duets.  You can see why Disney plucked them from the theatrical ranks to reinvigorate their once moribund animated film division.

Director/Choreographer Jason A. Sparks skillfully exploits the theater’s limited space to the production’s advantage.  The closeness of the performers to each other and to the audience gives the musical a vibrancy and immediacy.  He successfully incorporates the Audrey II into the mix as it slowly grows and literally takes over the stage. Mr. Sparks has a good command of the performers, knowing when to let them let loose or rein them in.  Doubling as choreographer, he adds an attractive array of dance routines, especially for the three-person chorus.

Scenic Designer Ryan Howell has effectively created a seedy, broken-down area of New York City.  Fading horror movie posters on a faux brick wall adds an amusing touch.  A rotating and breakaway set operates smoothly and unobtrusively, adding variety to the production.

Little Shop of Horrors, a lighthearted and spirited good time at ACT.  The ideal musical to introduce tweens and teens to musical theater.  Now through November 3rd.  Information and tickets are at

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