“Little Shop of Horrors” – Phoenix Theatre

Theater Review – May 19, 2018


Mainstage Theatre, Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

“Little Shop of Horrors” uses an extreme oxymoron to develop a daffy but delightful premise that transforms it into an affectionate and enjoyable musical even though it is now 35 years old.  Phoenix Theatre’s zippy new Robert Kolby Harper production isn’t perfect but it squeezes lots of entertainment from the unbelievable plot.

The show is set in Mushnik’s seedy skid row florist.  Why would anyone try to sell expensive flowers to people lucky to eat and find shelter?  Clueless Mushnik can’t understand why he isn’t successful nor can his two-person staff – Seymour, an inexperienced young  guy fascinated by plants and the voluptuous Audrey, who loves her job because it enables her to continue a weird romance with an abusive dentist.  Seymour fumbles and bumbles with a new plant he recently discovered.  He names it Audrey II in honor of his co-worker.   Audrey II grows to become a talking and blood sucking monster that digests people to survive.

Based on Roger Corman’s film, the musical’s author, Howard Ashman, uses the same story with a collection of cute and catchy Alan Menken songs.  The show is blessed with witty dialogue that makes the ridiculous plot funny.  As Audrey II grows, the plot goes further off-the-charts but the silliness remains infectious as the malarkey sails on hysterically.

Phoenix Theatre’s cast causes problems that keep the show from artful perfection.  The biggest blunder is casting Brian Golub as Seymour.  The know-nothing clerk must be young and supremely comfortable with the daffy humor.  Golub is too old for the part and he seems awkward with the character’s bizarre stupidity.  Kate E. Cook’s Audrey is better as she deploys a consistently dumb-witted accent as she blindly accepts her boyfriend’s abuse.

The rest of the cast is better.  Bald Scott Davidson is batty and off-center as the clueless Mushnik while Toby Yatso soars comically in a variety of supporting roles like the abusive dentist.  A three-person chorus of seedy area dwellers provides delicious musical backup.  The plant is ingratiating to watch as it babbles and eats.

Phoenix Theatre’s “Little Shop of Horrors” provides comic mayhem and silly humor but with some casting tweaks it could have been even funnier.  It continues through June 10.  For tickets, call the box office at 602-254-2151 or buy online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: B