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Review - Little Shop of Horrors

Matt Whorf
The Patriot Ledger
May 16, 2007
'Horrors' Brings Delights

If "Little Shop of Horrors" were brand new and making its debut today, it might be described as something like part "Revenge of the Nerds," part "Hairspray" and part "Weird Science."

But the fact that "Little Shop" debuted onstage as a 1982 off- Broadway musical comedy by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman - and that was a remake of the original low-budget 1960 black comedy movie directed by Roger Corman - only indicates that this production is, if anything, a major influence on 1980s classic camp films. Not the other way around.

In both the stage and screen versions - the latter including a 1986 feature film remake starring Steve Martin and Rick Moranis - "Little Shop" has made its way to cult classic status.

Also, thanks to such qualities as its low budget, small cast and original style of humor, the show has become quite attractive to community theater groups.

The latest local company to try its hand at "Little Shop" is Braintree's Curtain Call Theatre, which delighted a strong turnout to the small neighborhood theater house as it opened with a rollicking production last weekend.

The production, which closes out Curtain Call's 2006-07 season, continues this Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Friday's show is sold out.

In 1960, the original "Little Shop" was billed as "The Funniest Film You'll See This Year." Curtain Call's production, directed by Quincy native Paul Conroy, is essentially based on the Roger Corman film script, and moves at an energized pace. A soundtrack of pre- Beatles sockhop-era rock 'n' roll blends nicely with the action.

Seymour, played by David Lucey, is the nerdy young assistant at a florist shop on Los Angeles' skid row, owned by the grumpy, penny- pinching Mr. Mushnick, played by Mark Anderson.

When Mushnick fears he might have to close the rundown shop for lack of business, Seymour tells him about a special plant that he cross-bred from a butterwort and a Venus Flytrap, and suggests the plant might bring new customer attraction if displayed in the window.

Seymournames the plant after his love interest, his co-worker Audrey (played by Braintree native Mandy Mitchell), a sweet, simple gal who has an abusive boyfriend.

Meanwhile, as Seymour nurtures the plant, he soon discovers that his strange hybrid diets on not the usual kinds of plant food but rather human blood and flesh, and that every night at sunset the plant's leaves open up.

Seymourobliges by feeding him blood from his fingers, and Audrey Jr. soon grows to the size of a small sedan.

Little Shop is also remembered as one of the first musicals to bring rock 'n' roll to the theater stage.

Curtain Call's production pumps up the volume in grand style, with up-tempo numbers such as the title song (featuring the bee- hived girl group trio appropriately named Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette), the climaxing ensemble piece "Don't Feed the Plants" and the romantic themes "Suddenly Seymour" and "Somewhere That's Green."

Holding up the musical end, the offstage four-piece band of piano, bass, guitar and drums rocks the house, led by musical director Bryan Dunn.

"I like to look at the theme of shows that I direct in an abstract way. And I like to make audiences think, rather than just entertain," Conroy said about his rendering of "Little Shop."

"As a director, I usually stray toward darker, more in-depth shows," Conroy said.

Conroy is also a theater arts teacher at Quincy's Central Middle School. His previous directing credits include "Cabaret" with the Milton Players and "Six Degrees of Separation" with the Newton Country Players.