Little Shop No Horror at the Paramount
Though last season's Broadway revival of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken's off-Broadway smash Little Shop of Horrors received mostly tepid reviews and had a disappointing run, the national tour of that production is a blooming crowd pleaser in its one-week stint at the Paramount. While the show lacks in the intimacy that marked the original, the handsome Jerry Zaks-directed version, choreographed with do-wop dazzle by Kathleen Marshall, is musically adept and quite handsome to look at thanks to technicolored, candy-apple scenery by Scott Pask, and charmingly campy costumes by William Ivey Long.
Ashman and Menken humanized Roger Corman's grade-B, sci-fi horror film of the same name, and created a bountiful score for it that pointed the merry way their future Disney animated efforts would go.
The heart and soul of Little Shop, though, needs to be its Seymour and Audrey, and this tour has a perfect pair for the task. Anthony Rapp's Seymour is less grungily nerdy than others who have played the role, and more like a grown-up version of sad-sack Charlie Brown, a role Rapp played to perfection in the Broadway revival of You're A Good Man Charlie Brown. Rapp's Seymour is lovable to the grisly end, and his pleasing voice soars on the big love ballad duet "Suddenly Seymour," with Tari Kelly's Audrey. Though it seems no one can reinvent the Audrey prototype so indelibly stamped by original Off-Broadway (and film) star Ellen Greene, Kelly nicely subdues some of the squeaks and tics that have marred the portrayals of latter Audreys, and her solo on "Somewhere That's Green" is enchanting.
Michael James Leslie is the robust voice of man-eating, Earth-conquering plant Audrey II, rockin' the house on "Suppertime," and plant puppeteers Michael Latini and Paul McGinnis do their job adroitly. Lenny Wolpe is a mensch of a Mr. Mushnik, making his comic tango "Mushnik and Son" with Rapp a highlight of the show. James Moye is a bit overripe as sadistic dentist Orin, though he skillfully mugs his way through various other character roles, and manages lightning quick costume changes in "The Meek Shall Inherit" with aplomb. And a big huzzah to Iris Burrus, Amina S. Robinson, and Latonya Holmes as the Greek chorusy urchins Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette, whose hilarious physicalizations and vocal gymnastics wowed the opening night audience.
The stage version of Little Shop is quite a bit less visually gory than the Hollywood version, even with its darker than Hollywood ending. That and the passing years have rendered the show suitable for audience members from eight on up, and those youngsters in the audience were eating up the experience of watching all of the principal cast being eating up by a man-eating plant. Don't it go to show, ya never know!
Little Shop of Horrors runs through November 7 at the Paramount Theatre, 9th and Pine in downtown Seattle. For more information, go online at www.theparamount.com.