Valerie Canon, Tom Schulz, & Brian Morris in Little Shop of Horrors
Photo-Mind’s Eye Theatre
Little Shop of Horrors
Book & lyrics by Howard Ashman
Music by Alan Menken
Directed by Janet Morris
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved
Mind’s Eye Theatre is devoted to producing irresistible musicals. Certainly Little Shop of Horrors fits the bill as a show that is long enough on goofy charm and catchy tunes to win over any anti-musical holdouts.
That the whole thing was born as an el cheapo Roger Corman film shot in two days on leftover sets and featuring a wicked cameo from Jack Nicholson nine years before he became famous just increases the underground cred of a hugely popular musical. Director Janet Morris’ production harkens back to those shaggy-dog roots with a spare production that emphasizes story and character over splashy production values.
The book and score by Howard Ashman and Alan Mencken catapulted them into a lucrative career writing memorable scores for Walt Disney films (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast) before Ashman died, but this scrappy piece is arguably their most important work.
Brian Morris plays Seymour with his always-reliable skill and energy, while Valerie Canon presents an Audrey that is equally consistent with the character’s tradition of sex and innocence, and is fine voice. Their “Suddenly Seymour” duet is one of the better renditions of that signature number, and Ms. Canon doesn’t let the poignancy of “Somewhere That’s Green” escape her. Tom Schulz attacks flower shop owner Mushnick with Catskill zeal, nearly stealing the show in “Mushnick and Son”, and Isaiah Hein gives Orin Scrivello – DDS the maniacal edge he deserves.
Frances Lewis, Erica Denise, and Susan Crocker play the girl-group Greek chorus of Chiffon, Crystal, & Ronette with appropriate gum-smacking sass, reminding us of how important they are to the show’s success.
The other vital ingredient is, of course, Audrey II, particularly the full-grown, man-eating version. If you don’t get Audrey II right, you should pack it in and call it a day. Fortunately Mind’s Eye delivers, with a splendid puppet constructed by director Janet Morris, Britt Roarx, Katie Hay, Jeff Mangum, Carrie Chastain & Jeff Ketterman. It is voiced by Gordon L. Crawford, whose rich baritone for a moment made me wonder if the producer’s were using Levi Stubb’s voice tracks from the movie, and inside manipulating the monster was Katie Dearmond.
The costume credit is another team credit, emphasizing the camaraderie that seems characteristic of this company. A fine four-piece ensemble led by Music Director Kim Stover Hartz accompanies the show, although I could not help but wish for a little more kick in the beat than the limited confines of The Mex Theatre seemed to allow.
This Little Shop is fine entertainment, but I felt it didn’t quite reach the giddy heights that the show is capable of. The many individual moments that score for some reason don’t always flow as they should. I also found a couple of choices in the final scenes slightly undercut the intention of the climax. Without giving anything away, suffice it to say that one of the actors who found themselves incorporated into the scheme of the most mature Audrey II seems misplaced.
Yet by the time the, the kitschy, fatalistic, but still funny final number arrives, (and its not the ending devised for the film adaptation) its hard not to be won over by this hard-working production. Some theatre is challenging, some theatre is difficult, but Little Shop of Horrors is fun, escapist theatre. Pure entertainment.
Little Shop of Horrors
September 11, 12, 15, 17, 18, 19 at 8:00.
September 13 and 20 at 2:00.
Tickets are $19 and are available at
The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts box office.
Minds Eye Theatre
Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40204
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.