Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires


Regional Reviews by Zander Opper

Little Shop of Horrors
Ivoryton Playhouse

Also see Zander's review of Memphis and Fred's review of An Opening in Time


Nicholas Park and Laura Woyasz
Ivoryton Playhouse is currently presenting an unusually dark and scary production of Little Shop of Horrors. While the plot of this Howard Ashman and Alan Menken musical has always contained horrific scenes (after all, it is about a man-eating plant), most stagings offer a good deal of fun and laughs, as well. There are some laughs in the Ivoryton Playhouse production, but by the second act, this show truly begins to get a bit overwhelming. I salute director Lawrence Thelen for putting his own unique stamp on this musical, but I missed the lighter moments and the fun that Little Shop of Horrors usually has. Little Shop of Horrors at the Ivoryton Playhouse is certainly a good-looking production, with a talented cast, and it offers one terrific looking plant, but without the joy and laughs that normally coexist with the horror, I ended up leaving the theatre more disturbed than entertained.

This Little Shop of Horrors does begin in a delightful way, with the trio of girls (played by Denielle Marie Gray, La'Nette Wallace, and Azarria White, all wonderful) singing the "Prologue" and "Skid Row" numbers. On an impressive turntable set, this is probably the best looking Little Shop of Horrors that I have seen regionally, with the flower shop and sidewalk stoop playing areas prominently displayed and masterfully designed by Martin Scott Marchitto. As the main characters are introduced, including Seymour (an appealingly nerdy Nicholas Park) and Mr. Mushnik, the owner of the flower shop (played superbly by David Conaway), all seems good. However, with the first appearance of Audrey (Laura Woyasz), things begin to go a little to the dark side.

It is a common problem with Little Shop of Horrors that the role of Audrey is exceedingly hard to cast. This is because Ellen Greene, the original Audrey Off-Broadway, gave such a definitive performance, which she was able to preserve in the entertaining film version of this musical. Consequently, for better or worse, every actress who takes on this role is inevitably compared to Ellen Greene.

It is to the credit of both the director, Lawrence Thelen, and leading lady Laura Woyasz that they have wisely kept from offering a copy of Ellen Greene's performance. Laura Woyasz plays the role of Audrey much more seriously, and one feels a great deal of empathy for this hard luck character. Unfortunately, however, this Audrey misses a number of the sure-fire laughs associated with this part, though it must be said that she absolutely shines in both of her big numbers, "Somewhere That's Green" and "Suddenly Seymour." But, without the character's usual humor, things are a bit bleaker than normal for Audrey, and this only sets the stage for the scarier scenes later in the show.

This problem is only exacerbated by the appearance of Audrey's abusive dentist boyfriend Orin. Carson Higgins, who was so great as Huey in Ivoryton Playhouse's recent production of Memphis, is on the terrifying side as Orin, and even his amusing solo "It's Just the Gas" feels less comical and more horrific than usual. As the show progresses and the plant grows to an imposing size, things get to be more nightmarish than fun.

It can be said that Ivoryton Playhouse's production of Little Shop of Horrors is certainly true to the original creator's intentions in getting scarier and scarier as the musical progresses, but without the lighter touch of humor, something seems missing. This staging can be recommended for offering its singular vision of the show, and the numbers are all terrifically performed, but I ultimately left the production longing for less chills and more laughs. For those going to see Little Shop of Horrors at the Ivoryton Playhouse, proceed cautiously, and be prepared for a much darker and more overwhelming than usual production of this enduring musical.

Little Shop of Horrors continues performances at Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, CT through October 11, 2015. For tickets, please visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org or call the box office at (860) 767-7318.

- Zander Opper


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