Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 17, 2016

Little Shop of Horrors

Berkshire Theatre Group
The Colonial, Pittsfield, MA
through July 23, 2016
by Shera Cohen
Photo by Emma Rothenberg-Ware
Being quite familiar with “Little Shop of Horrors,” anticipation of enjoying this relatively ridiculous, sci-fi, 1950’s rock & ballads, musical comedy was not difficult. There were, however, some significant differences from the norm in the Colonial’s production. Director Ethan Heard takes casting and costuming far, far away to another dimension.
A Ronettes-type girl trio (all super singers) serve as the chorus (literally and figuratively) moving one scene to the other smoothly. Poor nerd and our hero Seymour becomes the talk of the town and savior of Mushkin’s Flower Shop with his strange new plant. Not spoiling too much, it is soon realized that Audrey II (the plant) is a hungry creature dependent on human flesh for dinner. 
Alan Menken’s music is snappy and fun. A few of the melodic pieces provide some bits of reality to this otherwise edgy comedy; i.e. “Suddenly Seymour” and “Somewhere That’s Green.” Music you’ll hum on the way home are those with odd titles and equally strange lyrics; i.e. “Skid Row” and “Feed Me.”
Stars of the show are Taurean Everette and Bryonha Parham (the plant). The female voice and body unlike any Audrey II that I’ve seen, create some pretty scary vegetation. Yet, Parham’s style is often too shrill even for an outer space being. Lindsay Nicole Chambers, whose soprano voice is smooth and lovely, brings with her shop girl/wannabe Seymour love interest a na├»ve humor. “Shop” is not all fun and games, however, exemplified by the life of this particular character. Stanley Bahorek (Seymour) and Stephen DeRosa (shop owner Mushkin) are skilled in their roles, and neither is required to sing any music of significance. 
James Ludwig (Dentist) purposely steals scenes from everyone. His sadomasochistic dentist is gruesome with his rusty dental tools, machismo in his black leather jacket, and delectable for Audrey II’s “Suppertime.” Ludwig makes much fun of his own characters. 
As noted, it is the director’s choice for this musical to stand alone among others with the same name. Over the years, there have been different endings to “Shop,” however, the transition from delightfully weird throughout most of the show to strangely silly only at the very end, wasn’t necessary.
Reid Thompson’s set design – primarily inside and outside of the flower shop – works well. Parker Esse’s choreography is enjoyable in the “Ronette” scenes and the especially the play’s opening “Skid Row” ensemble piece.