Little Shop of Horrors

Witty lyrics and catchy tunes abound in LBCLO's latest offering. Though engaging and highly enjoyable for the most part, "Little Shop of Horrors" proves a mixed bouquet with a few wilted weeds among the bright forget-me-nots.

Witty lyrics and catchy tunes abound in LBCLO’s latest offering. Though engaging and highly enjoyable for the most part, “Little Shop of Horrors” proves a mixed bouquet with a few wilted weeds among the bright forget-me-nots.

Roger Corman’s 1960 low-budget horror flick was adapted by songwriters Howard Ashman and Alan Menken — who went on to do Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty & the Beast”– into a 1982 off-Broadway tuner, and is probably best known to audiences from the ’86 film, which starred Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene.

The story unfolds in a Skid Row flower shop during the ’50s. A lovable nerd named Seymour (Willy Falk) shows his boss, Mr. Mushnik (Dom DeLuise), a strange new plant, Audrey II (puppeteer, Todd Larsen; voice, Ken Page), named for the object of his love (Eydie Alyson).

The plant’s presence has an immediate effect on the store’s business, turning Musnik into the hottest petal peddler in town. Unfortunately, the shop’s prosperity and Seymour’s popularity come with a price–the blood needed to feed the carnivorous Audrey II.

Seymour finds a likely candidate for plant food in Audrey’s abusive, sadistic dentist boyfriend (Joe Kane). Thus begins a series of killings to satiate the plant’s appetite.

A Ronnette-type trio (Karole Foreman, Marion Ramsey and Phylliss Bailey) moves the plot along to its far-reaching end with perky jazz combined with soulful rock ‘n’ roll. The production’s primary fault, Jonathan Dean’s over-zealous, highly trebled sound, often reduces the lush strength of their voices to strident, unintelligible wailing.

Falk and Alyson are good choices for the central roles. Falk’s puppy dog, “nobody loves me” schnook hilariously engulfs the audience with lovability. Never resorting to character-voice cop-outs, Falk’s clear tenor even transcends Dean’s faulty sound.

Replete with skin-tight, low-cut, bosom-boasting black knit dress, peroxide coif and breathy squeals, Alyson bathes Audrey in steamy comic sensuality offset by ditzy vulnerability.

DeLuise finds partial success as the greedy shop owner–the part the audience can understand. Often inarticulate, DeLuise’s labored efforts at humor have few results. Also lacking enunciation, Page’s rich bass nevertheless adds an ominous quality to Audrey II. As Orin, the miscast Kane proves inadequate.

Paul Wonsek’s wonderfully expansive Skid Row set has a delightful fairytale look.

Little Shop of Horrors

(Terrace Theatre, Long Beach; 3,054 seats; $ 34 top)

  • Production: A Long Beach Civic Light Opera presentation of a musical in two acts, with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken. Directed by Glenn Casale.
  • Crew: Musical direction, Dennis Castellano; choreography, Jeffrey Polk; sets, Paul Wonsek; costumes, Garland Riddle; lights, Douglas D. Smith; sound, Jonathan Deans. Produced by Barry Brown. Reviewed July 11, 1992; runs through July 26.
  • Cast: Chiffon ... Karole Foreman Crystal ... Marion Ramsey Ronnette ... Phylliss Bailey Mushnik ... Dom DeLuise Audrey ... Eydie Alyson Seymour ... Willy Falk Wally ... Scott T. Stevens Betty ... Arelene Allan Larry ... Eric Clausell Orion, Bernstein, Snip, Luce and Patrick Martin ... Joe Kane Audrey II (puppeteer) ... Todd Larsen Audrey II (voice) ... Ken Page
  • Music By: