Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Little Shop of Horrors
Also see Gil's review of The Last Five Years / Los Últimos Cinco Años
The musical is set in the rundown area of Skid Row and mostly takes place inside and outside Mushnik's flower shop where the nerdy and awkward floral shop assistant Seymour has recently stumbled upon a new breed of plant. While Seymour is at first intrigued by the plant that he's named "Audrey II," in reference to his co-worker and secret love Audrey, he doesn't realize that the romance, fame, and fortune the plant promises to bring him will require him to continually feed it blood. As Audrey II gets bigger and bigger from the continual feedings, Seymour learns that Audrey II has bigger plans of its own.
Ashman's smart, crisp book has witty dialogue and charming and humorous situations, creating characters that are cartoonish but also somewhat three-dimensional. Menken's infectious score includes a number of toe-tapping tunes and a range of musical styles including Motown and doo-wop. Ashman's lyrics feature smart and funny rhymes that add to the overall fun, upbeat, and quirky nature of the show.
The cast features many ABT favorites, and Kurtis Overby's assured direction delivers sharp comic moments that get big laughs plus he ensures the dramatic scenes include a nice level of poignancy that help balance the wacky humor and lyrics. His choreography features some fun synchronized movements danced by the trio of street urchins who narrate and comment on the action. Jacob Nalley's set makes good use of the large ABT stage. Carter Conaway's costumes are colorful and creative. The lighting by Leigh Treat adds to the humor and horror in the show and Josh Condon's music direction delivers rich, clear notes from the entire cast. The puppets were designed by Martin P. Robinson and they are colorful and humorous.
While the characters in the show are mostly exaggerated and somewhat cartoonish, Isaac Wesley Wilson and Renée Kathleen Koher create rich, warm, charming, funny, and entirely believable individuals as Seymour and Audrey. They are both wonderful, with sharp comic timing that makes their humorous moments and lines pop. They also do beautiful work in a few key emotional scenes, including Koher's passionate and heartfelt delivery of "Somewhere That's Green" and Wilson's touching moments when he realizes the impact of his actions. Wilson's sweet voice brings a lovely dose of sincerity to his songs, and Koher's powerful belt soars.
With a perfect accent and a fitting, borsht belt style comic delivery of his lines, Rob Watson is appropriately frenzied and funny as Mushnik. Jamie Michael Parnell is hilarious as he creates a half dozen unique characters of both genders, including Audrey's sadistic dentist boyfriend Orin. A nice touch that Overby makes, which has never been in the many productions of this show I've seen, is to have Parnell deliver the opening monologue of the show on stage, to the audience. Parnell's deep, rich voice works well on both the opening introduction and his many other playful songs. As the voice of Audrey II, Matravius Avent's gorgeous singing voice and hilarious line delivery provide plenty of laughs, while Matt Griesgraber manipulates the various Audrey II puppets with ease. Blair Beasley, Jazmin Moehring, and Elise Daniells are a powerhouse trio as three street urchins who serve as a Greek chorus, commenting on the action and providing backing vocals on several songs. All three have crackerjack line delivery, getting big laughs on their witty lines, and vocals that hit many impressive notes throughout.
Little Shop of Horrors is a practically perfect, well-crafted musical that has many memorable songs plus a warm and witty book. It's also a show that has a big heart underneath its humorous exterior. With a great cast, rich creative elements, and sure-footed direction, Arizona Broadway Theatre's production is a charming and crowd-pleasing production of this beloved musical.
Little Shop of Horrors runs through August 8, 2021, at Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 West Paradise Lane, Peoria AZ. For tickets and information, visit www.azbroadway.org or call 623-776-8400.
Direction / Choreography: Kurtis Overby