Little Shop of Horrors almost doesn't require synopsis. Between the original 1960 film, the 1982 musical adapted from it, and the 1986 Steve Martin-featuring movie based on that, millions already know the story. Nerdy shlemiel Seymour Krelborn is toiling away at a “God- and customer-forsaken” Skid Row florist's shop and waiting around for his knockout, emotionally knocked-about coworker to notice him when he comes into possession of a plant so “strange and interesting,” it promises to secure him fame, fortune and, most importantly, the girl. There's just one catch: This plant has a taste for fresh human blood.
In its current production of the stage-musical version of Little Shop, the reliable, Tigard-based theater company Broadway Rose hits all the right notes: The horror comedy is gallows-humorous, deliciously campy, and set to a nostalgia-inducing score of late-'50s R&B tunes (composed, incidentally, by Alan Menken, who also wrote the music for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin.)
There aren't really any weak spots in the show's small, ensemble cast, but there are a few bright ones. Erica Jones, Lindzay Irving, and Beth Sobo maximize their supporting roles as a trio of street urchins (and, effectively, this tragicomedy's Greek chorus) through physical comedy and outstanding vocals. Also outstanding: Rebecca Teran, as Seymour's coworker Audrey. When her character's funny, she's funny, but when Audrey lets us see the depths of her self-esteem, or voices the hopelesness she and her destitute downtown neighbors feel in the song “Somewhere That's Green,” Teran taps into true pathos.
Beyond the footlights, it must be said, there were issues with sound design. During more than a few numbers with multiple vocal parts, it was sometimes difficult to make out the lyrics; levels may need adjusting. Whatever problems there were in that department, though, were more than made up for in costume design. Costumer Shana Targosz has outfitted the cast period-perfectly, from Audrey's gaudy dresses to the Greek-chorus girls' horn-rimmed glasses and saddle shoes.
Little Shop of Horrors is a lot of fun, but what's given it staying power through the adaptations and adaptations of adaptations is that, underneath its silliness, the story is a meaningful, archetypal one—a Faustian tragedy about winning what you want but losing who you are (or, if you like, a Freudian cautionary tale against overindulging the Id.) See the play, and heed the warning: Don't feed the plants!
Little Shop of Horrors runs through October 21. For more information, visit Broadway Rose's website.
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