I can’t say this show has great dancing. I can’t say this show has tear-jerking acting or a story that will win awards. Ford’s Theatre’s production of Little Shot of Horrors is cheesy, campy, and all around crazy.
But that’s exactly why it works.
In the same vein as Rocky Horror Picture Show and Reefer Madness, Little Shop of Horrors is an American cult classic and the type of show you wouldn’t expect from a theatre that recently put up works like A Christmas Carol or The Rivalry. Where most musicals thrive on elaborate music, dance, and costumes; Little Shop entertains through over the top characters and an entertaining sci-fi story that could of been ripped from any five and dime comic book. The husband-wife team of Christopher Kale Jones and Jenna Coker-Jones (whom I mentioned in my previous blog of the show) play the show’s two leads: Seymour (Kale Jones), your stereotypical plant geek, and Audrey (Coker-Jones), a ditzy jersey girl. The two are employees at Mr. Mushnik’s (Christopher Bloch) flower shop on skid row. When Seymour finds an extra-terrestrial plant that feasts on human blood, life goes into a tailspin for him and everybody involved.
True to it’s pulp fiction roots, the show is fueled through energetic performances that are bigger than life yet not so over the top as to annoy. Coker-Jones is a fire cracker on stage and proves to be a great pairing with her real-life partner. Christopher Kale Jones plays up the geek in Seymour to a T. Besides a second-act accent reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart, he eliminates any doubts there may have been with a husband-wife casting. Evan Casey plays Orin, Audrey’s abusive and sadistic dentist-boyfriend, and is a one-man supporting cast playing every other minor character in the show. His multi-faceted performances are as impressive as the split-second costume changes he pulls off in the second act.
The music is heavy on the kitsch with a trio of women (Felicia Curry, Eleasha Gamble, Kara-Tameika
Watkins) playing a Superemes-like ensemble- moving the show along with musical interludes. The songs have a doo-wop/motown feel that you’d swear you’ve heard on the radio or at Silver Diner. However with lyrics like, “You have a talent for causin’ things pain/Son, be a dentist/People will pay you to be inhumane,” you are instead laughing along to the toung-in-cheek style of the show. There’s nothing wrong with the band, directed by Christopher Youstra and conducted by George Fulginiti-Shakar. They are perched above the action on a deck shaped like a space-ship, a creative way to work with the small space of the theatre. Also perched above you can spy the voice of the plant Audrey II, Elliot Dash. He remains true to form voicing the puppeteered plant as it grows from a small seedling to a gigantic, man-eating, monster. Dash voices the plant with a dead-on accuracy to Levi Stubbs, the actor who portrayed Audrey II in the 1986 film starring Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene.
Performed atop a rotating stage, the blocking and choreography took advantage of the moving floor, with clever rotations of set and set-pieces as well as some walking moves on the track that a clumsy fool like me could never do- however they made it look easy. I felt that some of the lighting cues were a bit messy, but I chalk that up to opening week jitters; overall the show is a well put together performance that fully embraces the non-sensical of the story to provide an entertaining show that anybody should enjoy.
Little Shop of Horrors
March 12 – May 22, 2010
511 10th Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
For patrons under 35, you can grab $10 tickets on Mondays- just order your tickets online and use code “under35”