Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Also see Zander's review of Gypsy
Nothing about the appearance of this Little Shop looks "realistic," and it works gloriously, with great performances by the entire cast and entirely fresh and exuberant work by director/choreographer Susan Haefner. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun seeing this show.
What shines the brightest in this production of the Howard Ashman/Alan Menken musical is the cast. Steven Mooney proves to be an ideal Seymour, looking a little unkempt and awkward, but he grows more confident throughout the show, and he has a thrilling singing voice. His rapport with the rest of the company is absolutely wonderful, in particular with the pretty Emily Kron, who plays Audrey.
Audrey is a hard part to cast, but both Emily Kron and the director have wisely avoided anything close to a copy of creator Ellen Greene's indelible performance in the role. Kron is a little less ditzy as Audrey, but she still manages to get all the laughs, and her "Somewhere That's Green" solo is enormously touching. She gets even better in the second act, with her almost show-stopping singing in her part of the duet, "Suddenly, Seymour." Also, she looks great in the series of lovingly provocative dresses that Kate Bunce has designed for her.
All of the actors in this production shine. Damian Buzzerio is a grand Mr. Mushnik and Aidan Eastwood is a hilarious Orin, performing like a rock star in the number "Dentist!" (Eastwood also splendidly essays the various supporting characters that appear in the show). And what would any Little Shop of Horrors be without a fabulous girl trio singing the title number, as well as providing musical commentary throughout? As, respectively, Chiffon, Crystal, and Ronnette, the actresses Brandi Porter, Cherise Clarke, and Famecia Ward are absolutely sensational, and they even go out to intermingle with the audience at times during the show.
And there is the menacing plant, Audrey II. As the plant grows throughout the show, it becomes the center of attention. I have seen some puppet designs of Audrey II that have been almost too scary and others that simply aren't scary enough. Happily, this Audrey II is just right and provides a great deal of humor, as well as the necessary chills. Supplying the voice for the plant, Rasheem Ford is just perfect, and Susan Slotoroff deserves a shout-out for her fine work maneuvering Audrey II throughout the show.
Playhouse on Park is an extremely intimate theater and director Susan Haefner uses that to her advantage. Indeed, there is something wonderful about being close enough to almost touch the actors, and the non-specific elements of the set actually transform the stage into something of a playground for the performers to have fun on. That fun is infectious, spilling out into the audience. This Little Shop of Horrors proves to be a real party of a show and is almost guaranteed to put a big smile on your face.
Little Shop of Horrors continues performance at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT through October 16, 2016. For tickets, please visit www.playhouseonpark.org or call the box office at 860-523-5900.