‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is a hilarious hoot
By Betty Mohr Theater Reviewemail@example.com July 18, 2012 3:52PM
Tiffany Trainer plays Audrey and Jonathan Lee Cunningham stars as Seymour in Theatre at the Center's "Little Shop of Horrors." | Michael Brosilow photo
◆ Through Aug. 19
◆ Theatre at the Center,
1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Ind.
◆ Tickets, $38-$42
◆ (219) 836-3255;
Updated: August 21, 2012 6:13AM
It’s a fairy tale, but “Little Shop of Horrors” isn’t exactly Disney fare.
The show does have a delicious score by the songwriting team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who also wrote “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.”
But this musical is darker and funnier than most Disney flicks. After all, “Little Shop of Horrors” features a bloodthirsty, man-eating plant that may end up devouring the planet.
Even if the unusual Venus flytrap might take over, though, it didn’t seem to matter to the audience at the engaging production at Theatre at the Center in Munster, Ind.
The theatergoers were engrossed in too much fun and laughter to be bothered by worry.
The musical was adapted from Roger Corman’s 1960 flick and opened off-Broadway in 1982.
The story follows young and naive Seymour, a nerdy worker at Mushnik’s Skid Row flower shop.
He has discovered an unusual plant and soon realizes that plant food and water won’t satisfy the leafy creature he has named Audrey II, after the girl he loves.
The real Audrey is down on herself, which is why she allows herself to be beaten up by her dentist-biker boyfriend.
Seymour’s boss, Mushnik, goes from authoritarian to a solicitous father figure when Seymour’s green, or rather red, thumb begins to draw money into the shop.
Mushnik doesn’t remain benign for the entire show, though.
Indeed, the show doesn’t have a benign bone in it. How could it?
The show has a science-fiction Faustian focus in which a man makes a deal with a carnivorous devil.
It’s reminiscent of the musical “Sweeney Todd” in which another failed shop is rescued by human fodder.
But it’s also a musical romp into doo-wop and rock ’n’ roll that under Stacey Flaster’s direction and choreography is a hilarious hoot.
It makes all the difference that Flaster has selected a talented cast, which includes Eva Ruwe from Chicago Heights.
As Seymour, Jonathan Lee Cunningham has the deer-in-the-headlight look that evokes sympathy.
As Audrey, Tiffany Trainer comes through with a nasal-pitched voice that says a lot about her character’s insecurities.
Together, Cunningham and Trainer deliver a nice duet with “Suddenly Seymour.”
And gifted actor Peter Kevoian is a delight as Mushnik.
In addition, there’s the bloodcurdling monster that moves with the help of puppeteer Scott Stratton and the deep, inimitable voice of Stanley White creates a most compelling animal spirit.
But the highlight to savor is Rod Thomas as Orin, the dentist who loves to inflict pain.
In tight black leather Thomas is a riot as a sadist who snorts nitrous oxide and laughs himself to death.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen such a terrific revival of “Little Shop of Horrors.”
If you go to the show, you won’t need nitrous oxide to indulge in nonstop laughter.
Betty Mohr is a local freelance writer.
TALKBACK THURSDAY ON JULY 19: A free postshow discussion features members of the cast and creative team. Taking place immediately following the performance, artists respond to questions from the audience.
2ND SATURDAY SYMPOSIUM AT 3 P.M. JULY 21: Attendees can enjoy a behind the scenes preshow discussion, led by Theatre at the Center’s production manager and technical director Ann Davis, and find out how Audrey II was created. This may be added to any theater ticket for no charge, but reservations are required.
FEED ME! DINNER-THEATER EVENT AT 5:30 P.M. AUG. 2: Participants can take part in a preshow dinner located across from the theater lobby. The evening includes a dinner, lots of surprises and the 7:30 p.m. performance of the show. The cost is $50.