Groff photos by Emilio
Shop of Horrors
By David Schultz
to its roots, this joyfully demented revival thrills.
would have thought that a Grade B flick sci-fi comedy from 1960 directed by
Roger Corman could end up as a musical? Composer Alan Menken and librettist
-lyricist Howard Ashman sure did. The musical penned in 1982 was first staged
downtown in the East Village, then in various incarnations, a plethora of high
school theater productions in spades soon followed, then was turned into a hit
film, and has been a cult favorite since its inception. It is mighty easy to
see why it has gained such a rabid following. It was again revived a few years
ago in a 2003 bloated Broadway production, and had an insanely popular hard to
get ticket at City Center with original cast member Ellen Greene, and Jake
Gyllenhaal as the nerdy Seymour.
at last this musical has been appropriately downsized, playing at the Westside
Theater, holding a mere 270 seats, it is a perfect return to its original
roots. Smaller is definitely better, the setting has an intimate spatial
aspect. The setting designed by Julian Crouch (Shockheaded Peter) is pitch
perfect with his typical visual flair, giving the Mushnick Florist shop small
vivid touches, he perfectly encapsulates the 1960’s vibe. Sliding outdoor views
into the florist shop open up with cinematic finesse into the inner regions of
Groff and Christian Borle
production has an A list of primo Broadway performers on board. Jonathan Groff
(Seymour Krelborn) the nebbish glasses wearing Skid Row florist, Tammy
Blanchard (Audrey) and Christian Borle (Orin Scrivello D.D.S.) totally run with
the insane manic humor with which this work is infused ….as well as the rather
dark menacing undercurrent that pulses within. It is the uneasy, yet perfectly
balanced commingling of horror and humor that sustains this current production.
Everyone…. well almost everyone knows the plot. Our hero finds an exotic plant
downtown in Chinatown, plops it in the window of the shop to drum up the
forlorn rarely visited shop. His secret from afar attraction to fellow
co-worker Audrey initially goes unnoticed…. she has a slightly, well, kinky S
& M relationship with her dentist boyfriend Orin.
proprietor of the shop Mr. Mushnick (Tom Allen Robbins) finds that this plant,
christened with the name Audrey II, by lovelorn Seymour as a token of his
admiration for Audrey is a neighborhood hit. Everyone is stopping by and in
turn buying ever increasing floral arraignments, giving the shop a much-needed
problem…this oh so popular plant derives it nourishment and growth by imbibing
blood. At first accidently nipping his finger the plant opens its Venus flytrap
mouth and itches for a taste. Seymour gives the plant daily blood snacks from
his ever increasing sore finger tips. But as Audrey II grows, and grows larger
with each feeding. The plant eventually starts to talk to our hero with an ever
increasing blood lust and starts to desire way more than his initial selective
liquid diet. The voice of Audrey II (Kingsley Leggs) growls and sings with ever
increasing guttural deep tones… “Git It (Feed Me)”, and “Suppertime” finds a
soulful devilish pitch that takes this musical to eerie levels of depravity.
But the two most famous songs are no doubt are “Somewhere That’s Green” sung
with emotional fervor by Audrey and the classic “Suddenly Seymour”. The gut-wrenching
immediacy of these two songs are a perfect example of the diamond sharp
precision of Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman. The witty wordplay encased
in the musical as a whole makes the damn thing float into the stratosphere.
Macabre…yes, but so laugh out loud funny too.
throughout the show are a variation of a Greek chorus, this fab trio Crystal,
Ronnette, and Chiffion essayed by Salome Smith, Ari Groover, and Joy Woods
comment and dance and sing DoWop ditties as the plot thickens and coagulates.
The tale of this hungry plant goes down its inevitable rabbit hole taking the
audience gleefully with it.
an already twice extended run, that by all appearances is sold out, this
plant-lovin’ tuner is a very hot commodity. The perfect exceedingly small venue
is no doubt the reason why. But it proves to be a sensational theatrical space
to experience this unusual musical…. the final scenes dazzle as Audrey II grows
into its most imposing stature as it gazes at what is left of the humans on
stage and then into the real audience, be afraid….be very afraid. Well as the
final refrain so eloquently states…” Don’t Feed the Plant”!!!
at The Westside Theater, 212 239-6200, telecharge.com
Through January 19th 2020.