Theatre Review: “Little Shop of Horrors” performed @ClevePlayHouse by Kevin Kelly

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Through Sun 2/7/2016 Cleveland Play House

Last night, I got to sit in the front row in the Allen Theatre to watch one of my favorite guilty pleasure musicals – Little Shop Of Horrors. This camp horror ride was created by Howard Ashman, book and lyrics, and Alan Menken, who wrote the music. This show was based on the low budget 1960 film The Little Shop of Horrors, directed by Roger Corman. Fun Film Fact, Jack Nicholson is the patient in the Dentist scene who is obsessed with dental pain with a twisted passion.

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As the band arrives, which is certainly a different take on the band aspect of the show, you notice that we are dealing with a street GO_GO’s, kind of 5 fierce female musicians who set up shop stage right, and fire up their rock band for the whole neighborhood to enjoy. They are full of beautiful faces, and bodacious musical talent. Kate Ferber, Alanna Saunders, Hallie Bulleit, Brittany Campbell, and Injoy Fountain are the musical culprits. These ladies serve some realness for dayzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

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Pictured Lauren Molina @lomo212

So let me start with the parts of the evening that were a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Lauren Molina, portraying Audrey, was right on terrific point. Her comic timing, facial acrobatics, and lamenting vocalizations were killing me in all the right places. She had a strong grasp on the silliness of her character and the musical itself. She drove that confidence home in hilarious fashion. However, even within this bizarre story, she kept Audrey human enough to be emotionally effective in Somewhere That’s Green. And then during the reprise of Green, even in the contrived antics of the ending, a tear running down her cheek, was matched by mine. Molina is a crazy, fun and comedic powerhouse.

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Pictured Joey Taranto @Joey_Taranto

Joey Taranto hilariously and vocally tore this show apart, armed with dynamic talent and versatile characterizations for days. Not to spoil the surprises here with Mr. Taranto’ clusterfuck of characters he gets to play, however, the featured split personality is the iconic Dentist, Orin Scrivello. D.D.S. As his self-titled song starts, he places himself stage front, packed, and I mean packed full, of talent. Displaying sadistic qualities only a quaalude could love, Taranto has a blast masochistically churning through this parody of evil in glorious fashion.

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But the true talent of an actor playing this role is not the more public known DENTIST song, it is having the chops to make NOW (IT’S JUST THE GAS) work while deftly riding the line of comedic horror, and literally…………….dying……………..and making me giggle. Mission Accomplished. Bravo. Like a Phoenix coming out of the ashes, you will get a lot of reincarnations of Taranto, and each one has a different voice, accent, and creative center. As my friends in Pittsburgh would say, “yinz did good!”

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Pictured: Ari Butler  and Lauren Molina

Seymour, portrayed by Ari Butler, is a menial laborer at Mushnik’s Flower Shop. Seymour Krelborn turns out to be the improbable hero of the story. Nerdlike is stature and presence, he’s a well-meaning guy, who couldn’t win an arm wrestling match against his grandmother. Seymour is the one who discovers the soon to be a carnivorous plant, Audrey II. Butler has great nerd charm. From the get go, Butler gives us hints of his connection with Audrey that are beautifully underplayed, and along with a velvety voice, create a very lovable character. He gets a lot of the evening’s journey right, and although he underplays the nerd aspect and childishness of a more typical Seymour, he does it with great resolve and commitment.

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But then a few things don’t make sense to me. And since Amanda Dehnert directed, choreographed, and musically directed the show, it might have to do with respectful disagreement on personal taste and vision for the production. The first is the casting of Larry Cahn as Mushnik. He never seemed to get the essence of Mushnik, or the comedic element of his character, or maybe that wasn’t explored enough. It just seems like an odd fit to me. He is a good actor and singer, but the connection wasn’t strong.

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The band was fierce, however, I didn’t know exactly where they were. On the street in Skid Row would be a good guess, but then were they in front of a movie theatre, and since the fierce voice of Audrey II, Eddie Cooper, was holed up in back of them, I would have wished for a little more clarification. Also, the mic stands are great for the band look, but then the girls are also head miced. This gives them the ability to move if need be, but that turned out to be a mixture of moving and then limited with the cord lines, or stepping away to ensnare a main character. It just didn’t read smooth to me, and also, didn’t allow for some creative fierce choreography to happen so those girls could break it down.

The plant is a letdown. There was more work done on the shaft of the flower, instead of focusing on the face of the plant, where the humor comes in. Also, seeing the puppeteer arm open and shut the mouth took me out of the magic. The tallness of the plant makes the eating segments turn into a display of physics on how to get the soon to be food characters inside.

The overall comedic value of the piece could have been directed with a stronger sense of what is funny in this show. So many subtle and some not so subtle moments were lost which give this fluffy piece of fun, a lot more layers that you would think.

And the stagehand opening Mushnik’s Shop on and off? Who was taking notes? I am all for artistic choices, don’t get me wrong, but that was a STRONG artistic choice.

At the end of the show, Audrey is singing the reprise of Somewhere that’s Green, and right in front of you, a tear moves down her face, from a face that is completely committed to the moment and the fun of it all. that is my biggest point, I wanted all of it to be fun.

Through February 7
Showtimes:

7pm Tuesdays
7:30pm Wednesdays
7:30pm Thursdays (1:30pm matinee 1/21)
7:30pm Fridays
2:30pm and 7:30pm Saturdays
2:30pm Sundays (1/10 6:30pm show only)

Tickets:
$20-$80 Reserved Seating

(216) 241-6000
Order Tickets Online
Location:
Allen Theater Complex
1407 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115

 

Kevin Kelly – CoolCleveland.com, http://www.ClevelandStageAlliance.com, http://www.Tpography.com