THEATER REVIEW: Performance Network’s “Little Shop of Horrors”

When a stage show gets extended beyond it’s original run, it’s a pretty good sign that something good is happening.  When a show gets extended beyond that extension, then you have a hit.  And, Performance Network in Ann Arbor has a hit on its hands.  “Little Shop of Horrors” is pure fun.

A parody of the 1950’s sci-fi films, which often were allegories about the “Communist Menace” spreading across America, LSOH opens in a Skid Row flower shop.  We are introduced to the story by the show’s Greek do-wop chorus: Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette (astute readers will recognize the names of girl groups of the 1960’s).  The girls providing a running commentary all through the show. 

Our hero is Seymour Krelborn, who is as nebbish as his name sounds.  He works for the owner of the flower shop, Mr. Mushnik.  The shop is not doing very well and is going to close.  However, Seymour has a strange plant that he found.  He and the other employee of the shop, Audrey, with whom Seymour is secretly in love, convince Mr. Mushnik to put the plant, the Audrey II, in the window to draw in customers.  When he agrees, it immediately works.  The shop is saved and everyone is happy.  Unfortunately, the Audrey II does not look very healthy.  Seymour has tried everything in the books to keep the plant alive.  Finally, through an accident, he discovers the one thing that the plant truly desires – human blood.

For a while, Seymour keeps the plant growing by providing it his own blood.  The plant thrives and so do the fortunes of the flower shop and Seymour, in particular.  The problem is that giving the Audrey II so much blood is making him anemic.  In order to keep everything going swimmingly, he will have to find another source of blood for the plant…

The score of the musical has several show-stopping songs.  "Skid Row (Downtown)", “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Suddenly Seymour” are quite beautiful that give the cast a chance to show their vocal chops.  Aaron T. Moore, playing multiple parts, gets the best laugh lines in the show, including the squeamishly funny “Be a Dentist”.

Strong performances abound in the cast.  Jason Edwards has the perfect nerdishly handsome look to play the sweet, unassuming Seymour.  Courtney Myers was a wonderful surprise as Audrey.  It takes a special talent to take the very funny song “Somewhere That’s Green” and turn the comedy into a tender moment.  Courtney did that.  Finally, the wonderful diva-esque Naz Edwards plays Audrey II (yes, the plants talks and sings).  Naz’s presence dominates the stage, even though she is physically restricted to standing in a large flower pot.  Her voice is as strong as I have heard it ever onstage.  And, as previous engagements at Performance Network have shown, she knows how to handle comedy, and this black comedy is no exception.

The show’s run at Performance Network has now been extended twice to run through May 30th.  Performance Network is Ann Arbor’s home for professional theater.  Scott and I have had season tickets for seven years, and this is among the best productions we have seen there.  Take the opportunity to support local theater by seeing LSOH and you’ll do yourself a favor as well by smiling and laughing all through the show.

“The guy sure looks like plant food to me.”

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