Thursday, July 16, 2009

review - MTW's Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors
book & lyrics by Howard Ashman; music by Alan Menken
directed by Steven Glaudini
Musical Theatre West
@The Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts, Long Beach
through July 26

As many times as I see Little Shop, I delight in its madcap, ageless appeal. Theatre lovers adore camp and, of course, LS has it in abundance. Every time I hear "Somewhere That's Green" or "Suddenly, Seymour" I think of the original Audrey Ellen Greene whose high-pitched voice and fast, slutlike gait are locked in my memory for all time. Monsters, an overly abusive boyfriend who also happens to be a masochistic dentist, a miserably impoverished & risked-filled, yet dreamy existence on skid row, the Shirelles or the Supremes serving as a Greek Chorus? well, why not? this is 50s, 60s rock! - the sky's the limit. Musical Theatre West's current mounting starts off a tad slow and tired, but by Act II the cast and effects are in full throttle, and the show takes its place in the pantheon of memorable LSH productions.
Danny Gurwin makes a great Seymour. His expressive underdog wins the audience's sympathetic affection from the top. Lowe Taylor as Audrey makes the role her own. This is not a copy of the original in either voice or movement. Her first act is sufficient, but she wins our hearts bigtime with "Suddenly, Seymour" at the start of Act II. Peter Paige's Orin hits the highest mark of despicability characterwise, but he has more fun - and shows more versatility - in essaying the half dozen or so other characters, including a female, with multiple accents and moods. Stuart Pankin fits Mr. Mushnik to a tee, and Meloney Collins, Kamilah Marshall, and Fredericka Meek make the singing trio of divas a delicious seduction x 3. Praise as well to Michael A. Shepperd who supplies the sexy pleading voice of Audrey II ... and to James W. Gruessing as Audrey II 's puppeteer. Glaudini's pacing as director is finely tuned, and his staging works well.
All in all, a fun-filled, toe-tapping evening of theatre. I know I've said this before, but MTW always manages to produce a top-notch professional evening within a very short rehearsal period. Warts and all, this is one of LA's finest musical theatre companies.
5 out of 5 stars


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