By Barry Reszel
If a dufus like Seymour Krelborn can nurture man-eating flora to develop delusions of world domination, well then sure as heck the composer responsible for the stage and screen soundtrack of modern time can make Krelborn’s story infinitely more entertaining than the 1960 B-horror movie on which its based.
Alan Menken (music) and Howard Ashman (lyrics) are responsible for the songs of Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and so many more. Ashman passed away in 1991, but if Menken has desire to hear his magnificent Little Shop of Horrors songbook sung just as he hoped it would be, he ought to take a trip to Chicagoland. It’s here where Drury Lane’s cast, led by Director/Choreographer Scott Calcagno and Musical Director Roberta Duchek, don’t miss a doo-wop in their fabulous presentation of this campy, fun, strange musical.
Set on skid row of an indistinct city at a time in the near future, Little Shop tells the preposterous story of a florist, Mr. Mushnik, and his employees, the dweeby Seymour and insecure beauty Audrey. Love interest, masochistic dentist/boyfriend, total eclipse of the sun, foliage with a penchant for human blood…let’s just say one thing leads to another and, if interested, the full plot summary and production history of the 1982 musical may be read here. It’s fun. It’s goofy. And the songbook is one of musical theatre’s very best.
Now it isn’t often a review’s plaudits begin with the backup singers, but since the quality bar is immediately set in Drury Lane’s production by their vocal perfection in the song triumvirate of “Little Shop,” “Skid Row” and “Da-Doo,” first applause belong to the trio of Melanie Brezill (Ronette), Candace C. Edwards (Crystal) and Melanie Loren (Chiffon). Just one listen to the tight harmonies of these exceptionally talented vocalists, and audiences will line up for tickets to the Skid Row Singers’ cabaret concert. Think about it, ladies.
So too are renditions of “Somewhere That’s Green” (Audrey) and “Suddenly Seymour” (Seymour and Audrey) the best a musical theatre patron is likely to ever hear. These two songs are on this reviewer’s “favorite musical theatre songs playlist,” so great thanks is given to Kelly Felthous (Audrey) and Will Lidke (Seymour) for sharing their immense talents. Returning to Drury Lane following recent triumphs here (Felthous in Chicago and Lidke in Saturday Night Fever), these two talented stars match the precision of their vocal duet with onstage chemistry and timing.
Throughout this production, the Motown-infused pop score, filled with fun numbers and expertly played by Conductor Chris Sargent‘s seven-member band, gives every member of this (relatively) small, terrific cast a chance for the spotlight. Ron E. Rains is a wonderful curmudgeonly Mushnik who steals the scene with the song “Mushnik and son.” Steven Strafford is a versatile ensemble member whose go at sadomasochistic dentistry is hilarious and frightening. His “Be a Dentist” is a showstopper. Lorenzo Rush, Jr. as the voice and Matthew Sitz the puppeteer of the out-of-control avocado-like Audrey II particularly shine in “Suppertime.”
Kevin Depinet’s rather simple, turntable design allows views inside the florist shop, accented by Properties Designer Cassy Schillo’s abundant arrangements, and outside on skid row. Lynda Myers’ costumes are colorfully spot-on. And Designer Claire Moores seemingly has new wigs for each scene, particularly for the Skid Row Singers.
In all, this is an impeccable production of many patrons’ favorite guilty pleasure of a show. So grab some tickets and head to Oakbrook Terrace. Perhaps Alan Menken will be seated just down the row.
Drury Lane Theatre presents “Little Shop of Horrors” through October 28 at 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. More information and tickets are available here.