Who'd have thunk it? (Thanks to Mary McCarthy's best-selling novel "The Group"). I'm sitting down to write a review of the Olney Theatre Center production of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS and wouldn't you know, Broadwayworld.com names the Olney Theatre Center the "Featured Regional Theater of the Week"! Here's the link: Regional Theatre of the Week. Coincidence? I'll never tell.
I have always enjoyed going to see productions in Olney ever since my first experience there in May of 1989 (in what seemed like a converted barn) when I saw the Ahrens and Flaherty musical LUCKY STIFF which starred Evan Pappas. The show went on to win the Helen Hayes Award for Best Musical and Pappas won for Best Actor in a Musical.
Well, look for more Helen Hayes nominations out of their current production of the musical farce LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS which is likely to get well-deserved standing ovations after each performance. Composed by Alan Menken with book and lyrics by the late Howard Ashman, LITTLE SHOP is based on the low-budget 1960 black comedy film directed by Roger Corman. In May of 1982, it opened at the small Off-Broadway WPA Theatre before it moved on to the Orpheum.
In 1986, the musical became a hit film with Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene and Steve Martin. In 2003, the musical hit Broadway with Hunter Foster, Kerry Butler, Rob Bartlett, and Douglas Sills. I was fortunate to see that production and it was terrific.
So, I was looking forward to see how Olney's production would handle a story that takes place on Skid Row in New York City, circa 1960, when Seymour, who works for a florist named Mushnik, is secretly in love with his blonde co-worker, Audrey. Seymour brings to the store a "new and exciting plant" which came to earth from outer-space after a total eclipse of the sun. Seymour names the new plant "Audrey II". He finds out the plant thrives on a diet of human blood and soon thereafter, the plant desires more than just a few drops of blood and people start to die. Oh, and Audrey has a boyfriend, a semi-sadist dentist named Orin, who hits on Audrey literally and figuratively and drives a motorcycle.
Director Mark Waldrop has assembled a magnificent cast and a terrific supporting staff. Special mention to James Fouchard for the great Set Design which includes steps to the subway and steps to the elevated trains, superb lighting by Charlie Morrison, great sound by Jeffrey Dorfman (one can hear every lyric), great costumes by David Kaley, clever choreography by Vince Pesce and of course, the incredible Puppeteers, Eric Brooks and Elliott Davis. The puppets were provided by Monkey Boys Productions and they are delightful.
Musical Director/Conductor Ross Scott Rawlings brings the music to life with his superb pit of musicians: Rawlings on Keyboard I, Aaron Broderick on Keyboard II, Will Brumback and Greg Land on Guitar, Frank Higgins on Bass, and Tom Harold on drums (I wish the drums were miked just a bit more though).
Kudos to the superb cast. James Gardiner nails the role of Seymour, Carolyn Agan plays Audrey the way it should be played. She really milks her wonderful solo "Somewhere That's Green". Bobby Smith excels in multiple roles (look for him to come through the sewer cover in "Skid Row") but it's his Orin the dentist, who loves to use nitrous oxide, that hopefully lands him a Helen Hayes Award. The "semi-sadist" dentist is about to work on a patient and starts to hum. What is he humming? Would you believe the lovely hum from the beginning of SWEENEY TODD's epic number "Pretty Women". You can hear the Sondheim fans in the audiences laughing. I heard this was Smith's idea and it is brilliant. A nice homage to SWEENEY which also deals with a similar subject. Remember the meat pies?