The Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland isn’t the only place where world domination is currently being attempted. It’s also happening at the beautifully restored Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and the perpetrator is a blood-thirsty plant named “Audrey II”.
Berkshire Theatre Group’s lively and inventive musical production of Little Shop of Horrors couldn’t be more perfect and original if it tried. There have been several versions of the story, beginning with the 1960 B-movie version by Roger Corman. Later, Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman turned the story into a dark but buoyant comedy with an infectious doo-wop score. The pair struck gold with their long running off-Broadway creation that was later turned into a 1986 musical movie version starring Rick Moranis and Steve Martin.
Since then, it has been staged in high schools, community theatres, and regional houses around the country. It also made its way to Broadway in 2003 in a miscast, lifeless, and short-lived manner.
Fans of the show might think they know what to expect, but through Ethan Heard’s clever direction and designer Miodrag Gubernic’s artistic hand, there is proof (to paraphrase the cliché), that “you can teach an old plant new tricks”.
Little Shop of Horrors takes place in Mushnik’s (Stephen DeRosa) skid row florist shop. After days of no business, Mushnik decides to close his shop until his downtrodden employees, Audrey (Lindsay Nicole Chambers) and Seymour (Stanley Bahorek) introduce him to a “new breed of fly-trap”, which Seymour affectionately names after his colleague. Upon setting the plant in the window, the once forsaken floral hub becomes the most popular spot in town.
A long repressed romance develops between Seymour and Audrey, but Audrey is saddled with an abusive and sadistic dentist, Orin (James Ludwig), who becomes the first victim of the human- hungry Audrey II (Taurean Everett and Bryonha Parham).
Everett and Parham are mystical and magical together. Parham provides demanding vocals that are at times, smooth as silk and at other times, appropriately gruff and fearful. Parham is a singer like no other whose voice commands attention. Her counterpart, Everett brings the physicality of Audrey II as a female impersonator that evokes the look of Grace Jones if Jones decided to dive feet first into fauna and wear a funky plume. His thin, tall, and sturdy build helps create a serpentine-like quality towards his prey. Enrobed in Gubernic’s horticultural masterpiece, Everett manages to induce chills and laughs.
Chiffon (Alia Hodge), Crystal (Jalise Wilson), and Ronnette (Kay Trinidad) round out the cast as a soul trio who serve as a “Greek chorus”, and sing in the style of The Supremes.
Little Shop of Horrors is hardly the most profound show you’re likely to see, but its blend of dark comedy, romance, and sincerity prove why it has developed a cult following and remains an affectionate favorite of musical theater lovers.
The Berkshires Theater Group recently announced that its recent, sold-out production of Fiorello! will transfer Off Broadway. One can only hope that this talented cast and their unique, insatiable plant will follow suit and devour a New York stage as well.
Little Shop of Horrors in the beautiful Berkshires. Now through July 23rd. For tickets and information, visit: http://www.berkshiretheatregroup.org/