LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (Bristol Riverside Theatre): Don’t Feed the Plants!

Andrew McMath stars in Bristol Riverside Theatre's LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (Photo credit: BRT staff) 

Andrew McMath stars in Bristol Riverside Theatre’s LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (Photo credit: BRT staff)

Based on the 1960 cult-classic film of the same name by celebrated B-movie director Roger Corman, the musical-comedy stage version of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman, premiered in 1982 and enjoyed a five-year smash run Off-Broadway. The outlandish parody of the horror and sci-fi genres, now in production at Bristol Riverside Theatre, still elicits laughs and gasps from appreciative audiences and delights with a score of period-style rock, Motown, and doo-wop numbers.

BRT’s show, directed with spot-on timing by Susan D. Atkinson, embraces all the retro-camp in the story of Seymour Krelborn, a nerdy assistant at Mushnik’s Florists on Skid Row, in love with a pretty blonde co-worker named Audrey, and tending a ravenous exotic plant he named Audrey II in her honor. While the mysterious plant brings fame and fortune to the shop and its keeper, it also harbors a deep dark secret. Will Seymour and Audrey find eternal happiness once the diabolical truth about Audrey II is revealed? Will the human race survive this “deadly threat to its very existence?” Or will the audience die laughing with Orin, Audrey’s abusive biker boyfriend and sadistic nitrous-oxide-sniffing dentist?

Both Andrew McMath as Seymour and Laura Giknis as Audrey bring strong voices, believable New York accents, and sympathetic personalities to their roles as the disadvantaged shop hands with dreams of finding true love and a better life. Danny Vaccaro, who plays the hateful Orin, also portrays an array of supporting characters, including Mrs. Luce, in sidesplitting drag. Candace Thomas, Berlando Drake, and Lindsey Warren are sensational as the street-smart trio of Crystal, Ronnette, and Chiffon, a girl-group Greek chorus offering their singing commentary on the hilariously improbable plot, and Carl Clemons-Hopkins is terrific as the voice of the bloodthirsty, R & B-belting Audrey II. The ensemble’s vocals are in perfect harmony (music direction by Ryan Touhey) and their choreography (by Stephen Casey) in perfect synch.

The fine cast is supported by a first-rate artistic design, with impressive vintage-style costumes (Linda Bee Stockton), colorful lighting that evokes the play’s changing moods and actions (Charles S. Reece), and an expansive set with a rotating center (Jason Simms) that captures the look and feel of Skid Row, with its tenements, trash, and graffiti, and the flower store (the titular “little shop of horrors”), which transforms from floundering to flourishing to fatal. Though the BRT’s staging omits the final surprise threat to the audience in the original Off-Broadway version, it’s all a whole lot of fun and a thoroughly amusing two hours of theater. [120 Radcliffe St., Bristol, PA] May 6-June 8, 2014, www.brtstage.org.

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About the author

Debra Miller

Debra holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware and teaches at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ. She is a judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice, and has served as a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and President of the Board of Directors of Da Vinci Art Alliance. Her publications include articles, books, and catalogues on Renaissance, Baroque, American, Pre-Columbian, and Contemporary Art, and feature articles on the Philadelphia theater scene.