Also see Ann's review of The Tempest
Little Shop of Horrors by Howard Ashman (book and lyrics) and Alan Menken (music) was a huge, popular favorite in the 1980s, with a run of over 2,000 performances Off Broadway. Countless regional and school productions have been presented in the years since. Little Shop finally reached Broadway in 2003, but was not able to sustain more than a brief stay, though lead actor Hunter Foster received a Tony nomination for the role of Seymour. It seems audiences like their Little Shop a little smaller and a little less slick, but the winning score and dark humor can always be appreciated. The current touring production is very similar to the Broadway revival and, for those who haven't had a good regional Little Shop fix lately, it delivers a good presentation of the score by good performances, with somewhat counter-productive production values.
This production has a vibrant, cartoonish set by Scott Pask. The gutter quality of the classic Skid Row isn't well portrayed, and the futility of the characters is not well transferred, causing mixed feelings about the desperate actions they take. As Seymour Krelbourn, the orphaned social misfit who befriends a unique, but deadly plant, Jonathan Rayson is appropriately nerdy. He sings the part very well and brings out most of the humor. Tari Kelly is a great Audrey; she conveys the heart and weariness of the character who longs for a simple happiness, but knows it's not in her future.
Ray DeMattis knows how to play the shtick humor required for flower shop owner Mr. Mushnik (and the great height difference between DeMattis and Rayson adds a bit of physical humor). James Moye keeps up well with the various parts he plays, delivering a very solid "Dentist!" as Orin. The urchin chorus of Chiffon (Yasmeen Sulieman), Crystal (Iris Burruss), and Ronnette (Latonya Holmes) is a big hit, and all three women show beautiful voices and great, sassy attitude. Audrey II is scaled down from the Broadway production, but still effective and sung well by Michael James Leslie.
Little Shop of Horrors continues at Heinz Hall through March 27. Visit www.pgharts.org for more information.