Horrific Comfort Food: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

l. to r. Bill Mootos, Ceit McCaleb Zweil, Lovely Hoffman, and Jennifer Fogarty in Little Shop of Horrors. Photo by Andrew Brilliant / Brilliant Pictures.

Little Shop of Horrors, book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken, New Repertory Theatre, Charles Mosesian Theater at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, 4/29/12-5/27/12, http://www.newrep.org/little_shop.php.

Reviewed by Kate Lonberg-Lew

(Watertown, MA) Sometimes you are having a bad day. Sometimes you are in such a bad mood that escapism is the only way to manage.  It was in such a state that I entered the New Rep’s production of Little Shop of Horrors at the Arsenal Center for the Arts. I tell you this so that you will know exactly how steep a hill the cast had to climb in order for me to emerge smiling; which I did.

The all-around strong cast was led by the Doo-Wop Chorus made up of Crystal (Lovely Hoffman), Ronnette (Ceit McCaleb), and Chiffon (Jennifer Fogarty). They are exactly what you expect and want from the trio: energetic, flirty, and pitch perfect.  Blake Pfell also shines, bringing the right mix of nerdy, boyish-charm to Seymour. In fact, these performances are so strong that other cast members fade into the background.

The set, primarily a downtown flower shop, was what you’d expect of a lower-budget production. It keeps with the slightly campy feel of the material. The lighting was also good, accentuating the right people without being intrusive.

The production is not without it’s shortcomings, however. Issues with the microphones started early on and persisted through the second act. Every so often someone’s mic would cut out for several seconds before returning. To be fair, the audience was warned that cell phones disrupted the mics, so perhaps we are to blame here.  There were also problems with sightlines. On occasion the audience could see things that they we not supposed to, unless of course, the victims of Audrey II were exiting out the back to rise to heaven and not merely crawling off stage.

Let’s leave these relatively minor issues aside and move on to the biggest one, the plot.

(Please read: Spoiler alert)

Just in case you aren’t familiar with the musical, it is about  Audrey II, an alien man-eating plant. The plant, raised from infancy by the bumbling Seymour, goes on to consume many of the inhabitants of Skid Row, with its sights set on world-wide consumption and domination. Audrey II plies Seymour with gifts of fame, riches, and the attentions of the girl he loves, Audrey. So far so good here, but as the story progresses, the plot begins to fall apart, motivations weaken to the point of disbelief, and events become less and less plausible.  A prime example of this is when, after being mortally wounded by Audrey II, Audrey convinces Seymour to feed her to the plant so that will always be together.  This was like watching Spiderman surrender Mary Jane to Doc. Octopus.

So, while enjoying Little Shop requires a suspension of disbelief of considerable proportions, the bottom line is this production is well worth the cost. It certainly managed to entertain even the grumpiest of its audience members, namely me.

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