Phil Rittner's rock music and Teddy Yudain's gigantic flesh-eating puppet have taken over the Monomoy Theater in a wretchedly bewitching musical playing all week. Being green has been tainted by a terrifying plant with dreadful eating habits. No cousin to a cuddly sing-along frog named Kermit brought to life by the late master puppeteer Jim Henson. Audrey II is no Muppet! She commands center stage with shark-like jaws and teeth captivating all as a temptress in search of blood rather then sunlight.
“Little Shop of Horrors,” the musical, by composer Alan Menken and writer-lyricist Howard Ashman premiered at the Monomoy Thursday night to a whirlpool of audience cheers and applause. As we left the theater, I asked fellow baby boomers, parents, and their children for their thoughts. “DON'T FEED THE PLANTS!” was shouted in unison.
The doo-wop, Motown vintage, rock and roll story of a poor, orphaned florist enjoyed a five-year run when first appearing at the Orpheum Theater, Off-Broadway, 1982. Frank Oz directed the popular film version in 1986. “Little Shop” finally made it to Broadway in 2003. Roger Corman originated the story-line in his 1960 horror movie of the same title.
Guest Director Marsha Korb Predovic assisted by noted puppeteer Yudain (Metropolitan Opera) designed the two act production around three Monomoy theater-created Audrey II puppets who grow from a small potted plant to hand puppet to huge focal point on set dominating the action. Unseen but hidden onstage near the orchestra it is indeed Dennis Predovic who brings Audrey II to life in song, dialog, and shocking Venus fly-trap blood-sucking outrage.
The lovable and multi-talented Lawson Lewallen becomes Seymour Krelborn, an amiable nerd who works at Mushnik's Skid Row Florist Shop. Business is off. Mushnik, Artistic Director Alan Rust completely in his zone, is threatening to close the shop. Homeless men are sleeping on the street and even using his men's room as needed. Unpaid receipts are piling up in boxes. Seymour's co-worker Audrey dreams of a track home in suburbia, cooking like Betty Crocker and looking like Donna Reed. Katherine Wolff makes a stunning Audrey, in fine voice, as glamorous as Marilyn Monroe. Audrey is dating a sadistic, cruel motorcyclist dentist, Orin Scrivello. Mark Lawrence plays his dentist as a cold-hearted, powerful man treating his gal like trash. Outrageous behavior, how can this be?
Seymour has just gotta get out of that shop. He loves Audrey and cannot stomach seeing her black eyes, arm in sling, and verbal abuse from a gas-inhaling addict who just happens to be a professional.
Thank goodness the audience knows it's just acting. Perhaps a new plant for the front picture window will cheer everyone up! Strange plants are Seymour's hobby. Seymour brings in the new potted plant and sings her a song, “Grow for Me.” By accident, Seymour cuts his finger. Audrey II smiles, opens her mouth, as Seymour reluctantly feeds her the nourishment. Audrey II attracts customers from all over the town, news reporters, Life magazine, NBC TV, and even the World Botanical Enterprise. Fame, fortune, and even love are now at Seymour's fingertips. Lewallen gracefully handles Audrey attached to his hand and body. Nicely done. Actually, a few more drops of blood and limbs were fuel for Audrey II's mega growth but you gotta see the show, I am not telling.
“Thanks to Petunia. Mushnik has taken a Junior.” Mushnik formally adopts Seymour in his hunger for a “Big, green gold-mine.”
“Dentist” drew wild cheers as Orin exposes his flashy tooth cape under neon flashing lights with a trio of adorable backup vocalists Chiffon (Emily Qualmann), Crystal (Rachel Rival), and Ronette (Olivia Fenton). The gals floated in and out of the action from beginning to end, always in tune and in-step to Jacob Green's doo-wop, finger snapping choreography.
Alan Rust is an expert character actor and singer and so very entertaining in every show he appears. Rust makes a perfect cranky, kvetch shop owner Mushnik. Reid Williams and Matt Werner became creepy vines and puppeteer hands on the plant; we never see their handsome faces.
What a joy to meet professional actor Casey Predovic (Nathan Detroit) as an audience member cheering to his father Dennis Predovic's excellent performance in voice and expression only, the “FEED ME” Audrey II plant with an unfathomed agenda of taking over America leading poor Seymour to a life of very poor decisions. Audrey is fully aimed at Cape Cod. Predovic steals the show, what a voice and extraordinary sense of comedic timing. Is Chatham's Main Street now threatened with human extinction? Did the Monomoy audience safely exit to be reunited with their own families? Will everyone at the Squire and on Lighthouse Beach now be wearing floral headpieces?
Listen to the wisdom of the Children in the audience opening night. Enjoy the show, but “DON'T FEED THE PLANTS!” With apologies to Pine Tree Nursery and Agway of Cape Cod!