New Repertory Theatre wraps up its season with the delightfully naughty, shamelessly blood thirsty crowd pleaser, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (running through May 20th). Inspired by the 1959 Roger Corman horror film (with an unknown Jack Nicholson in the dentist role), the musical sends up life in the idyllic ‘50s (and early ‘60s). You know, those pre-civil rights years of manifest destiny, sexual repression and ever-so-helpful fallout shelters!
The ‘50s certainly deserve to be savaged but Howard Ashman and Alan Menken handle the era with kid gloves, skewering it lovingly with songs that make gentle fun of the doo-wop and Motown hits we teenagers adored. (One of the pleasures of LITTLE SHOP is the music, directed with a great back beat by New Rep’s Todd C. Gordon.)
New Rep’s director/choreographer Russell Garrett ramps up the camp in this version, stopping just short of winking exits. He gets high energy performances and maximum laughter from the stereotypes---but he doesn’t neglect the sentiment in the piece--- when romance buds after the man eating plant eliminates Seymour’s rival. Blake Pfeil is just nerdy and innocent enough for us to root for Seymour, despite his lapses in judgment.
Susan Molloy is perfection as the ditsy Audrey. She makes Suddenly, Seymour soar like an anthem and Somewhere That’s Green seem eminently reasonable. Paul D. Farwell is hilarious as the scheming shop owner and Bill Mootos gets to be everyone else in style, including the sadistic, helium (!) sniffing dentist who hijacks Audrey’s smile. (The Mickey Mouse voice is a hoot!)
The teen chorus of Jennifer Fogerty, Lovely Hoffman and Ceit McCaleb Zweil is gleefully cheeky and deliciously hip but the Supremes send up can’t work if you don’t have Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson. Likewise Timothy John Smith (the voice of the plant) is sensationally black but when you see him at curtain call, another joke is lost. There’s no rule, of course, which says who has to play a role. I’m just saying...