I'm always excited to see a classic musical I haven't seen before. Recently, I got to see Rent for the first time at the Secret Stage Theater. When I heard Little Shop of Horrors would be playing off-broadway, I knew I needed to go. Even better, they cast one of my favorites, Jonathan Groff, as Seymour.
I arrived at the Westside Theatre and discovered I was in store for an incredibly intimidate performance. This theater is small, only 548 seats, and felt like a performance just for me.
It's clear from the onset we're in for a good time; The show itself is kitschy, but it works. It has everything. A big name star (Groff), music by Alan Menkin, and an outrageous sci-fi plot. I really enjoyed the intersection of classic Disney-style music with a story about a man-eating plant.
The cast were all fantastic.
The urchin trio played by Ari Groover, Salome Smith, and Joy Woods provide amusing commentary as the show unfolds in front of us.
I got a kick out of Mr. Mushnik's (Tom Alan Robbins) constant Jewish mannerisms especially his use of words like schmuck and mensch; Tammy Blanchard convinces us that Audrey is a character who needs our help.
In my opinion, Orin (Christian Borle) is the most enjoyable character to watch. I love his representation as an over the top evil-maniac. Borle's evil laugh is everything you could ask for. Unlike some villains, which are so evil we simply hate them, this one is comical in a love to hate way.
Finally, Jonathan Groff was precious as Seymour. This character transforms from an innocent admirer of Audrey to a murderer. This isn't quite a Walter White transformation. It's much more believable that he doesn't intend to do harm at any given moment.
The music is enjoyable, but doesn't hold up as a body of work on it's own. Suddenly Seymour is probably the one exception to this rule. It's much more of concept album than a bunch of singles. I honestly have no idea what song the cast would perform outside the context of the show. That said, I have listened to the cast recording a few times since I saw the show.
This production was really well staged. They followed the classic progression for the plant. It slowly goes from a small hand held puppet to a larger than life monster that takes multiple puppeteers to operate. At the end, the plant is raised out into the audience and it's very reminiscent of early 3d movies. The plant is coming to get me!
While the show takes place in some unknown city, to me it's Baltimore. The juxtaposition of doo-op music and Jewish heritage reminds me of the place I was born.
I'm glad I got to see this show. It was a lot of fun. I don't feel the need to see it twice, but I'd recommend it to any fan of the original musical.