Fighting Chance's production of Little Shop of Horrors does the tale proud
Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman. Music by Alan Menken. Directed by Ryan Mooney. A Fighting Chance production at Jericho Arts Centre on October 12. Continues until October 27
Little Shop of Horrors, an ingeniously weird blend of schlocky B-movie menace and sugary girl-group froth, hasn’t lost its charm after 30 years, and this production does it proud. Don’t feed the plants!
Howard Ashman’s script, based on a low-budget 1960 flick by Roger Corman, unfolds in a skid-row flower shop. Mr. Mushnik operates the store with the help of clumsy nerd Seymour and the masochistic ditz Audrey, a woman who lowers the bar for low self-esteem. Business is nonexistent until amateur botanist Seymour displays a strange plant he’s named Audrey II (in a roundabout declaration of his feelings for his coworker). But Audrey II is no run-of-the-mill carnivorous plant, content to eat insects; her particular tastes lead Seymour into a Faustian pact, whereby his fame and fortune grow along with Audrey II’s foliage.
Yes, these are cartoon characters, but director Ryan Mooney injects the show with just the right amount of sincerity to make us root for them. Kerry O’Donovan is a terrific Seymour, hiding his lack of vocal chops behind an adorably awkward demeanour: he smiles bashfully at Audrey when he reveals the plant’s name, and later doffs his glasses with a flourish when he serenades her with “Suddenly Seymour”. Melissa Clark’s Audrey is a bit quiet at first, but she comes into her own with a sweetly vulnerable “Somewhere That’s Green”, a tender ode to the joys of suburban living. I wouldn’t have minded a bit more genuine danger from Greg Delmage as Audrey’s nasty boyfriend, Orin Scrivello, or a more grounded set of choices from David Nicks as Mushnik, but I was consistently impressed by the doo-wop stylings of the chorus of neighbourhood girls played by Ria Manansala, Veronika Sztopa, and vocal powerhouse Nicole Stevens.
The show sounds and looks great, too, thanks to Vashti Fairbairn’s musical direction of a cookin’ five-piece band; Matthew Bissett’s eerie, textured lighting; and gorgeous Audrey II puppets from designers Liz Parama and Sarah James. And let’s not forget Nick Fontaine, channelling a late-night radio DJ from some other, slicker dimension to give voice to this plant from hell.
The story is outrageous and the songs are great. What more could you ask for?