Who: Geva Theatre
When: Through Feb. 15
Where: 75 Woodbury Boulevard, Rochester, NY 14607
Review by: Kate Drozynski
It’s over the top. It’s kitsch. It’s a giant puppet plant hell-bent on taking over the world one unsuspecting, bumbling florist at a time. Little Shop of Horrors, presented by the Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, embraced the ridiculousness of Howard Ashman’s story of Seymour Krelborn and the mysterious Audrey II with just the right air of absurdity.
Little Shop of Horrors, based on the 1960 black comedy film of the same name and remade into the 1986 cult classic movie, tells the tale of Krelborn, a florist’s assistant on Skid Row presented with the opportunity for fame and fortune when a strange and interesting plant appears before him during a total eclipse of the sun. Will Blum nailed it as the clumsy Krelborn, emerging from beneath his horn-rimmed glasses to belt his singing parts.
When the plant, named Audrey II after the vulnerable and self-loathing Audrey (Kristen Mengelkoch), turns nefarious, Krelborn is faced with the decision to off the vegetable or feed its bloodlust. Mengelkoch captured Audrey’s sweet-girl-with-a-past attitude, soaring through “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Suddenly Seymour.” Her accent was a bit exaggerated at times, but within the context of an alien plant musical, it worked.
The plant, controlled by puppeteer Raymond Carr, was exciting to watch as it transformed from sickly little seedling to mean green mother from outer space. Carr was at times visible, which did break the illusion, but watching him work the puppet in its many forms was charming in and of itself.
Audrey II was voiced from offstage by Bethany Thomas, who’s singing voice suited the vile vegetation well.Her speaking lines, however, sounded more whiny than threatening coming from her beautiful voice. It’s a stark contrast to the booming Levi Stubbs, who voiced Audrey II in the 1986 film.
John Gregorio was the dentally deranged Orin Scrivello, D.D.S., Audrey’s no good boyfriend with a penchant for nitrous oxide and semi-sadism. Supporting the entire cast throughout were street rats Chiffon, Ronette and Crystal (Talitha Farrow, Gavyn Pickens and Trista Dollison). Individually, each singer nailed her part. Dollison shrieked and shimmered and Pickens brought a mellow, mouthy attitude. Together, though, some of the trio’s harmonies clashed and the accidental dissonance rattled an otherwise stellar sound.
Little Shop of Horrors will be playing at the Elaine P. Wilson Mainstage at the Geva Theatre Center through Feb. 15. On Jan. 12, the Rush-Henrietta Senior High School will stage their own production of the show as part of the Center’s Stage Door Project.