Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of A View from the Bridge
The musical began life off-off Broadway in 1982 but made it a little further uptown to Off-Broadway in 1984, running for five years and ending as the highest grossing Off-Broadway production in history. Since then, it has been very successful everywhere, including a belated Broadway debut in 2003. I have reviewed the show three times previously and, interestingly, several of the leads are returning to these roles after long periods of time; that is how enticing this musical is for performers.
Craig Weiskerger returns to the role of Seymour after 14 years, having played it at Players Theatre in 2003. I cannot accurately guess his age, but on stage he is completely the 20 something total nerd. He sings very well and does his director proud as a dancer. Christina Capehart is Audrey, the kewpie doll object of his affection with a taste for bad men. Together they knock "Suddenly, Seymour," admittedly one of the greatest musical comedy duets of all times, right out of the park. She also scores strongly with "Somewhere That's Green" and he is excellent in all his character songs, such as "Grow for Me." Ken Basque returns to the role of Mushnik after many years and now wears it like the proverbial glove. He has the strong presence needed, the comic chops to deliver the Yiddish shtick and above all else a strong voice to anchor ensembles. He and Craig Weiskerger make "Mushnik and Sons" a highlight, and when he takes a turn toward Tevya land, he is hilarious and finishes the job with a high baritone note that he belts and holds, much to the audience's delight. These are not written into the score but are wonderful additions from a fine performer.
Brian Chunn, already having a fine season at Manatee Performing Arts Center, scores again with Orin Scrivello, the sadistic D.D.S. When he plays assorted media people in the second act, he brings them to life. Vanessa Voiz (Crystal), Javisha Strong (Chiffon), and Mika McGee-Kleinschmidt (Ronnette) are our Greek chorus / Motown trio, always commenting on the action. Caleb Carrier, who also designed the sets, inhabits Audrey II and Eldred Brown sings and speaks for her.
Director/choreographer Dewayne Barrett keeps this production lively. I've rarely seen Little Shop of Horrors move as cohesively as it does hereall the dancing is in service to the characters. Music direction is by William Coleman, keeping the musical side of things ship-shape. The scenic design is effective: a flat is used to divide the street scenes from the interior of the Skid Row florist Shop that is the scene of most of the action. Costume designs by Becky Evans are effective and Joseph P. Oshry does his usual magnificent job lighting everything. Sound design by Tom Sell vanishes the sonic ghosts that from time to time invade this venue.
Little Shop of Horrors is a musical that appeals to all ages, and this production by Manatee Players is top notch. My crystal ball shows me sell out performances on the horizon.
Manatee Players presents Little Shop of Horrors at Manatee Center for the Performing Arts through January 22, 2017, at 502 3rd Ave W., Bradenton; 941-748-0111, manateeplayers.com.
Directed and Choreographed by Dewayne Barrett