Opening night saw an odd glitch with a rising platform that refused to rise, but once the tech difficulties were surmounted, the show was hitting on all cylinders right through its riotous dénouement. Bill Barry, just returning from Broadway after heading up First Date, directs this romp, claiming it’s one of his favorite musicals, and he does every scene justice with lots of fresh takes on the classic.
Most noticeable here is the genuine feeling with which Joshua Carter and Jessica Skerritt approach the parts of Seymour and Audrey. The roles are iconic now and can easily lend themselves to broad, silly strokes: the Woody Allenish bumbler and the ditzy blonde. Carter and Skerritt avoid these pitfalls and infuse their acting with thoughtful, grounded takes on what these characters must be experiencing as their down-and-out world inexplicably turns itself on its head after the discovery of the “strange and unusual plant.” The depth they bring to their roles makes “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Suddenly Seymour” seem like new songs; it was as if we were hearing these lyrics for the first time.
Berry and associate choreographer Crystal Dawn Munkers have given the cast lots of fun dance moves and they were “all in” on opening night, twisting and jerking like crazy to Ashman and Menken’s 50’s style rock tunes. Indeed, this is one of the only shows I know where it is a major temptation to get out of my seat and dance to the songs.
The production still maintains that loveable off-Broadway feel, where anything might just work, even on a shoestring budget. And though the play’s over arching-themes touch Faustian grandeur, as Seymour’s tortured soul must tangle with overwhelming temptations, it never seems to forget its humble roots: Roger Corman’s 1960 low, low budget black comedy-horror movie. If the ACT has made any error at all here, they might have over done some of the stage wizardry just a hair. With Little Shop, less can be more!
Nicole Rashida Prothro, Alexandria Henderson and Naomi Morgan are delightful as the doo-wop girls, constituting the theater’s hippest Greek chorus ever. David Anthony Lewis ably portrays Orin, the sadistic dentist, among other goofy roles. Ekello J. Harrid Jr. is the voice of Audrey II, the mysterious flower, and Eric Esteb is the puppeteer that brings it very, very alive.
Little Shop of Horrors, a co-production of A Contemporary Theatre and The 5th Avenue Theatre plays at The ACT, 700 Union Street, Seattle, through June 15. Sets by Martin Christoffel, Costumes by Pete Rush, Lighting by Robert J. Aguilar, Music direction by R. J. Tancioco. Tickets at www.acttheatre.org.