Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Little Shop of Horrors
Phoenix Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of Fly by Night, Big Fish, The Diary of Anne Frank , and Rock of Ages


Kate E. Cook and Brian Golub
Photo by Reg Madison Photography
The writing team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman found worldwide fame and won multiple Academy Awards for their scores to several hugely successful Disney animated films, including The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. But their first big hit happened in the early 1980s, before their Disney success, when they turned Roger Corman's 1960 B-movie Little Shop of Horrors into a crowd-pleasing musical comedy. Phoenix Theatre is presenting a fun and funny production of this humorous and charming musical with a capable cast and incredibly smart direction.

The show is set in and around Mushnik's rundown flower shop on Skid Row and begins when nerdy and awkward floral shop assistant Seymour stumbles upon a new breed of plant. Seymour is at first intrigued with how this strange plant affords him a glimpse of success and a chance at getting the girl he pines for, but he doesn't realize that the romance, fame and fortune the plant promises to bring him will require a steady diet of blood. The plant, dubbed "Audrey II" by Seymour in reference to his co-worker and secret love Audrey, gets bigger and bigger from the continual feedings and seems to have plans of its own that go far beyond bringing Seymour love and happiness.

Menken's infectious music includes many upbeat tunes and a range of musical styles from doo-wop and Motown to 1960s girl group inspired songs. Ashman's charming and humorous book features lovable, comical characters and his ingenious lyric choices include very funny rhymes, all adding to the overall quirky and humorous nature of the show.

Robert Kolby Harper's direction ensures that the comic moments are sharp and delivered to get big laughs, and his choreography features an abundance of creative, offbeat and comical dance steps. He also adds a poignancy to the sweet, emotional moments that help provide nuance and added layers to the somewhat stereotypical characters. While the sets and costumes for this production are rentals, and excellent rentals at that, Daniel Davisson's lush, evocative lighting is simply sublime.

The characters are written as slightly cartoonish, but Brian Golub, Kate E. Cook and Scott Davidson, as Seymour, Audrey and Mushnik, respectively, create funny, warm and charming individuals. While I wish Golub's diction during his songs were a little crisper, he does a decent job as the lovable nerd. Cook is a highlight as the ditzy blonde who dreams of a better life. Her performance of "Somewhere That's Green" is stunning and one of the best versions of the song I've heard; she provides deep meaning in each lyric and makes you realize how Audrey learns more about herself and her hopes as she sings the song. Davidson is perfectly playful as Seymour's frenzied boss, with an infusion of fun, borsht belt style comedy in his line delivery and a rich singing voice.

Toby Yatso is having a gas as Audrey's abusive, bad-boy boyfriend who just happens to also be a dentist, Orin. He also plays a half dozen other characters, of both genders, with comic aplomb. As the voice of Audrey II, Antonio Leroy King delivers deep, rich vocals as well as a fun maniacal laugh, while Titus Kautz handles the puppeteering skills of the giant plant with expert ease. Alyssa Chiarello, Anne-Lisa Koyabe and Brittney Mack are powerhouses who provide expert assistance throughout as a trio of female street urchins who are always on hand to provide backing vocals and plenty of sass in their witty lines.

Little Shop of Horrors has an infectious score and a fun book that delivers big laughs but also has a big heart. Phoenix Theatre's production of this musical spoof has a cast who skillfully manage their way around the intricacies of the score while also creating sweet, emotion-infused characters. The end result is fast paced, fun, and extremely enjoyable.

Little Shop of Horrors, through June 10, 2018, at Phoenix Theatre, 100 E. McDowell Road, Phoenix AZ. Tickets can be purchased at phoenixtheatre.com or by calling 602-254-2151.

Director/Musical Staging: Robert Kolby Harper
Music Director: Alan Ruch
Sets, props and costumes provided by The Music and Theatre Company
Lighting Designer: Daniel Davisson
Sound Designer: Marie Quinn
Hair and Makeup Designer: Terre Steed
Properties Designer: Tyler Welden

Cast: (in alphabetical order):
Ronette: Alyssa Chiarello*
Audrey: Kate E. Cook*
Mushnik: Scott Davidson*
Seymour: Brian Golub*
Plant Operator/Ensemble: Titus Kautz
Voice of Audrey II: Antonio Leroy King
Chiffon: Anne-Lisa Koyabe
Crystal: Brittney Mack*
Orin Scrivello: Toby Yatso*

*Members of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors & stage managers in the U.S.


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