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Chicago by Charles Eichler

Little Shop Of Horrors At Drury Lane

In anticipation of the revival of Little Shop of Horrors this summer on Broadway, it is interesting to go back and re-examine this show, now playing at Drury Lane Theatre in Oak Brook Terrace. Based on the film by Roger Corman, the plot involves a simple "nerd" who discovers the mystical powers of a plant that just won't die. Devouring whatever it can be fed, the plant becomes the major antagonist in this musical. With book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken and precise direction by Ray Frewen, this musical (and this particular production) retains, the "gusto" of the original film and is a delight to see.

Let's talk about the plant, Audrey II, first. This one is amazing. It is bright and colorful and wonderfully manipulated by Dan Proctor with voice supplied by Derek Alexander. There is no doubt that Audrey II means business. In the simple plot, Seymour (played with a Tommy Tune finesse by Paul Slade Smith) discovers that the plant becomes a growing friend/enemy and must be supplied with great quantities of nutrition. Trying to hold on to his relationship with Audrey, his "bimbo" girlfriend, Seymour embarks on a career that includes killing his boss, Mushnik, played with great comic integrity by Don Forston, and various other complications. The musical retains the same off-the-wall zaniness of Corman's film.

What makes the Drury Lane production work is the combination of impeccable casting and excellent production elements. Director Frewen has chosen a wonderful cast of performers. Nicole Cready is a wonderful, ditzy Audrey, with a strong voice and good humorous acting. Chiffon, Crystal, and Ronnette (played by Tamara Anderson, Jenna, and Ford Jackson respectively) provide strong backup. Our mad dentist, Orin, played by Jeff Max, is a delight. Max is an actor to watch - he has played everything from Magaldi in Evita to Perchik in Fiddler on the Roof, and he is quite a talented, handsome actor.

For once, the set pieces add to the show. Kurt Sharp has designed an authentic depiction of Mushnik's shop, and he uses the revolving stage to advantage. Costumes designed by Gregory Slawko are glittering and most appropriate. The music direction by Jeff Bell is excellent.

Ray Frewen has done it again at Drury Lane! Little Shop of Horrors plays through March 9th at Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois. For tickets call (708)-530-0111.

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-- Charles



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