Tuesday December 18 9:54 am

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

"Little Shop of Horrors" - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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Based on an, at the time, obscure 1960 Roger Corman B-movie horror film titled "The Little Shop of Horrors," Ashman took a tale of a struggling floral shop owner and his clumsy assistant who falls hard for the wrong girl into a camp classic which is part love story mixed with the terror of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." The original ran for five years off-Broadway and has since developed somewhat of a cult following.

Seymour (Will Lidke) has recently visited an ancient Chinese botanist and acquired a rare plant which seems to be, at first, an avocado and Venus flytrap hybrid. Mr. Mushnik (Ron E. Rains) owns a flower shop in New York's Skid Row which is failing financially. Unable to pay his two employees, the orphaned Seymour and the beautiful but scatterbrained blonde Audrey (Kelly Felthous), he sees no solution but to close his business. Seymour, who secretly has a crush on Audrey, vows to help out in any way that he can. His mysterious plant, which he has lovingly and earnestly dubbed Audrey II, is floundering until he accidently stumbles upon a unique plant food which causes Audrey II to flourish.

Soon the entire city is flocking to Mushnik's Flower Shop to get a glimpse of the strange, and ever-expanding wonderment known as Audrey II. With all of the attention, Seymour has become a bit of a local celebrity but must make some sacrifices to constantly feed his growing succulent. One such person taking a renewed interest in Seymour is Audrey herself. But how could Seymour possibly woo her away from her boyfriend, Orin Scrivello, D.D.S. (Steven Strafford)? Orin, who is a controlling and physically abusive menace, won't let Audrey out of his confining grip.

While Strafford has loads of fun with his musical number "Now (It's Just the Gas)" which ends Act One and Lorenzo Rush, Jr. lends his very expressive and impressive vocal skills to the Voice of Audrey II (a role that he could clearly turn into his signature), it is the ladies who are the real stars of this show. Felthous avoids the stereotypes to make a sympathetic Audrey that you can't help but wish that she will find the security of a suburban home, complete with the white picket fence, as she pines for "Somewhere That's Green." Her amazingly clear voice shines during this number and she displays her powerful stamina as she belts out "Suddenly, Seymour."

Audience favorites Chiffon (Melanie Loren, who is also dance captain), Crystal (Candace C. Edwards) and Ronnette (Melanie Brezill) function as a doo-wop Greek chorus. They thrilled with the prologue ("Little Shop") and proved that they all three have the goods as they opened "Skid Row" with stunning a cappella.
Scenic Designer Kevin Depinet has fashioned a set constructed upon a turntable which revolves to show a safe haven for the misfits Seymour and Audrey in the interior of Mushnik's Flower Shop as well as the gritty slums of the exterior streets, with other locations, such as Orin's dentist's office, played a bit further downstage.

Costume Designer Lynda Myers has Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette decked out in a variety of vivid and colorful outfits replete with enough spangles and bows to make the Supremes envious. She also has added some subtle touches which may go unnoticed by the casual theater-goer. A tiny, sparkling rhinestone brooch fastened to Audrey's sling on her arm or the enamel white applique of a molar on the back of Orin's black leather biker jacket add richness to both of these characters. Likewise, her design for Orin's self-made mask so that he can inhale his nitrous oxide is the most elaborate that I have ever seen in a production of "Little Shop of Horrors" and certainly makes him look like a Buzz Lightyear junkie (and it is mic'd surprisingly well). Both of these designers may have mutually worked together to create the look for the finale, which has Seymour, Audrey, Orin and Mr. Mushnik in an elaborate extension of the growth of Audrey II.

As many local Chicago theater companies are rolling out some scary or ghoulish offerings now that autumn is upon us, Drury Lane has beaten them to the punch and is the first out of the gate. If you are looking for a bit of a Halloween fright, you can't go wrong with this enjoyable take on "Little Shop of Horrors."

“Little Shop of Horrors” runs through October 28th at the Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. There is plenty of free parking; valet parking is also available.

Running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes, with an intermission. Performances: Wednesdays at 1:30 pm; Thursdays at 1:30 and 8:00 pm; Fridays at 8:00 pm; Saturdays at 5:00 and 8:30 pm; and Sundays at 2:00 and 6:00 pm. Dinner-theater packages are also available. Tickets range from $45-$60. FYI (630) 530-0111, www.drurylanetheatre.com, (800) 745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com.