Play: Little Shop of Horrors
Group: Stages St. Louis
Venue: Reim Theatre, Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road
Dates: Through June 28
Tickets: From $15 to $48; contact 314-821-2407 or HYPERLINK "http://www.stagesstlouis.org">http://www.stagesstlouis.org"www.stagesstlouis.org
Story: Mushnik’s Skid Row Florist is a business down and out. Proprietor Mushnik, in fact, has decided to turn off the lights for good and lay off his two employees, Audrey and Seymour. At the last moment, though, Seymour shows his boss a strange plant he has found. When he sets it in the display window, a passerby stops, gawks and enters the shop to make a purchase.
Business picks up as rapidly as the mysterious plant, named Audrey II by Seymour, grows to monstrous proportions. Only Seymour knows the food of choice of Audrey II, namely human blood. While Audrey plugs along in her relationship with a sadistic dentist, Seymour’s secret love for Audrey and his quest to keep Audrey II thriving lead him to a series of deadly decisions.
Highlights: The season opener for Stages St. Louis is a light and bright summer soufflé that’s easy on the ears and a pleasant evening of oldies song and dance. Based on the 1960 cult ‘B’ horror flick by Roger Corman, this 1982 musical by author and lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken is a stylish compilation of doo-wop, Motown and early rock ‘n’ roll that easily induces finger snapping and foot tapping. The Stages production directed by Michael Hamilton maintains a fluid pace and an engaging rendition that captures the sweet soul of the music and the corny comedy of the script.
Irrepressible Ben Nordstrom puts his considerable talents to delightful use as the nerdy and needy Seymour. Nordstrom’s limber body is ideal for the pratfalls and physical schtick inherent in Seymour’s role, and his dancing moves are smoothly evident in Stephen Bourneuf’s engaging choreography.
Other Info: Maria Couch is a hoot as the addle-brained beauty, Audrey. Her plaintive delivery of the amusing ballad, Somewhere That’s Green, is all the more effective as she sings it in the same nasal twang that she employs in her dialogue. Valisia Lekae, Rashidra Scott and Lisa Ramey are top-notch as the coyly named Chiffon, Crystal and Rockette, the backup girl group that hangs out on Skid Row and provides some wonderful harmony as well as classic rock dance moves.
Darin De Paul ably displays his own comic skills as the suddenly revitalized businessman Mushnik, particularly on the dry number, Mushnik and Son, as he attempts to adopt Seymour to ensure profits stay in the family. Todd Dubail is a dervish of madcap motion as he changes into myriad characters and costumes in supporting roles, including the dastardly dentist Orin, who struts his way through the comically nasty number, Dentist. Geno Segers puts his booming bass voice to splendid use as a derelict on the show’s best number, Skid Row (Downtown), as well as voicing the menacing alien plant in the grimly funny Feed Me tune.
Marc Petrosino is the talented gent responsible for pulling Audrey II’s massive strings, with additional puppetry skills provided by Monte Howell and Shaun Sheley. John Inchiostro’s costumes accentuate the cartoonish style of the show, as does the dingy set design of Richard Ellis, which also includes a spruced-up version of the revitalized floral shop, lit most effectively by Matthew McCarthy in the scenes shared by Audrey II and Seymour. Lisa Campbell Albert’s musical direction and Stuart Elmore’s orchestral design bring out the best of the rock score, particularly the livelier first act.
Little Shop of Horrors is silly and mindless fluff but also a fun time for plant lovers and carnivores alike.
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.