Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 19, 2016

Little Shop of Horrors

Playhouse On Park, West Hartford, CT 
through Oct. 16, 2016
by Stuart W. Gamble

Love and hate, happiness and tragedy, life and death, humor and horror—“Little Shop of Horrors” playing at Playhouse On Park offers these and wonderful tunes that make two hours simply melt away. Directed and choreographed with style and verve by Susan Haefner, “Little Shop,” with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken (the creators of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”) and Roger Corman’s film, offers an evening of hummable melodies and theatrical abandon.

The Little Shop of the title is Mr. Mushnik’s (Damian Buzzerio) skid row flower shop that does zero business. His schleppish employee Seymour (Steven Mooney) has a hobby of cultivating strange plants. Audrey (Emily Kron), Mushnik’s other employee, is a sweetly simple soul with a penchant for picking abusive boyfriends, including the sadistic motorcycle dentist Orin (Aidan Eastwood). Seymour’s discovery of a carnivorous plant that he names Audrey II, in honor of his secret love for Audrey, soon creates havoc for Seymour as he desperately tries to keep Audrey well-fed.

photo: Meredith Atkinson
The singing and acting of the entire cast is prime. Mooney’s appealing performance as Seymour deserves attention. His transformation from an awkward, be-speckled misfit to a self-assured man of the world is highlighted in his duet with Kron, the show-stopping “Suddenly Seymour.” His other duets with Buzzerio, the tango-inflected “Mushnik and Son” and with Audrey II  “Feed Me” are comic highlights. Kron nicely underplays Audrey, which is evident in her doleful rendition of “Somewhere That’s Green.” Rasheem Ford’s basso-profundo voice of Audrey II and Susan Slotoroff’s  physical manipulation of Audrey II are commendable as well.

Since “Little Shop” is essentially quite theatrical and depends on various elements to create its almost cartoonish quality, credit must be given to Scenic Designer Brian Dudkiewicz and Costume Designer Kate Bunce, who transform the nearly single set from drab grey and black to Oz-like technicolor.

Despite all its wonderful qualities, the four-member musicians at times drown out some of the singers, most notably in the title number sung with perky enthusiasm by the street gals’ chorus.

But this doesn’t prevent the show from delivering its message that fame costs much in human sacrifice(s).