We’re back with Broadway Rose again. There’s just something about this company that keeps you coming back, a mix of community and professional standard. Not going to gush, I just like going to their plays. In a week or so we’ll be revisiting THE BLACK LIZARD and Jerry Mouawad’s new cast and production, but this week…this week Broadway Rose. This week: THE Little Shop OF HORRORS.
As you take your seat in Broadway Rose’s theater house, prepare to be greeted with a set that’s modeled after a cartoon. Maybe a comic book. Realism isn’t in abundance is what I’m saying and that’s okay because 1) it’s THE Little Shop OF HORRORS and it’s a play about a talking alien plant that eats people, and 2) the 1950s were wholeheartedly one of the craziest decades. Not good crazy either. Absurd amounts of nationalism cultivated by an absurd amount of paranoia, conformity so strong that today people aren’t even sure ‘falling in line’ was around before the 50s, desperate fear of nuclear threat, desperate fear of counterculture, a huge spike in Christian zealotry. How do you contextualize that? How do you even begin? “Jesus, just…just make it a cartoon. Please let’s never take this decade seriously again.”
Okay, okay, that’s a bit much. This play is styled as a farce and it’s aimed at a genre not a generation. The 1950s B-movie. Films like Them!, Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, The Day the Earth Stood Still, etc. that are informed by 1950s anxieties concerning nuclear power, McCarthyism, and the Communist ‘sleeper’ threat. The texts themselves have become iconic for their giant radioactive monsters, and transforming what was once ‘Earth normal’ into an ‘alien threat’. They were known as ‘B-movies’ due to relatively low budgets, which were nearly always spent on the special effects department, much to the despair of the writing and acting.
Oh – and rock ‘n roll! For those of you who saw MEMPHIS when it was in town, you’ll know that the 1950s was when rhythm and blues took hold in the mainstream.
Now combine all these elements with a Mel Brooks sense of humor and…MAGIC!...you’ve got the Little Shop OF HORRORS! Doesn’t that sound fun?! Yes. The answer is yes.
But let’s not spoil the plot for those who haven’t seen it, let’s just talk performance. Director Abe Reybold has done well in a number of ways, first and foremost in assembling an eclectic cast of talent. Some are familiar faces with Broadway Rose and some are new, all are great singers. Second, Reybold has absolutely coaxed the right mood from this production. It’s a farce, it’s silly, it’s fantasy, and it’s more-or-less just for a bit of fun and that’s what comes across. Just as the cartoon buildings in the backdrop rise up, surround, and enclose ‘Downtown’, THE Little Shop OF HORROS is it’s own self-contained bit of theater, a story for pure enjoyment.
The main talk of the casting is Bobby Ryan as protagonist Seymour, a newcomer without much vocal training. Don’t take that as a bad spin, because for the character of Seymour it’s a completely appropriate quality. Ryan has a strong voice when he needs to but if Seymour’s songs were crisp, sharp, and refined around The Edges it just wouldn’t be right.
Teaming up with Bobby Ryan is Rebecca Teran as Audrey, and Darren Hurley as Mr. Mushnik. Teran is certainly the vocal powerhouse of the cast, doing a startlingly beautiful rendition of ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ (I didn’t think I could take that song seriously after that episode of Family Guy but I am proven very wrong). In fact, the only thing more impressive than Teran’s vocal talent is that someone convinced her the shirt she’s wearing is a dress. That’s Audrey though. And Teran got the perfect amount of comedy from it, which makes her braver and better than all of us.