If ever there was a time I needed to forget the woes of this weary world, it was Monday night. After watching those images of Notre Dame aflame and listening to the people of Paris singing as they watched, I was verklempt. I sure didn't feel like making the trek to Providence. But am I ever glad we did.
Trinity Rep's production of "Little Shop of Horrors" now on stage through May 12, gave me — and apparently Monday's enthusiastic opening night audience — two pure, sweet, satisfying hours of healing, healthy escape. What a balm for the bruises and the hurts of life. How good it felt to laugh ... and laugh ... and laugh.
Everything about this production — the cast, the costumes, the music, the dancing, the set and the plant — is fun and fresh, delightful and delicious. "Little Shop of Horrors" is what the world needs more of these days: pure joy, pure entertainment.
From before the play even began, frivolity filled the air in the form of the upbeat doo-wop and rock 'n' roll music that was blaring throughout the theater as audience members found their seats. The musicians, directed by Esther Zabinski, were seated high above the stage, above Mushnik's Skid Row Flower Shop, home of the blood-thirsty, man-eating plant, Audrey Two. Watching Audrey Two grow from a sad, little, droopy potted plant to a hilariously gigantic green and white oval monstrosity topped with pastel-colored globs who mutters "Feed me," over and over again, is part of the enormous fun of this show. Bravo to Puppeteer Ted Chylack and to Rachael Warren (the voice of the plant) who clearly had as much fun as the rest of us Monday night. Warren, as the glittering, glamorous, green voice is a show-stopper. Wow!
The show began with the fabulous trio of Chiffon (Carla Martinez), Crystal (Elexis Morton) and Ronnette (Kedren Spencer) whose voices — and moves — were gold (like one of the many exquisite costumes they wore.) As the crooned from high above Mushnik's Skid Row Flower Shop, the three enormously talented vocalists warned us of what was ahead. The three pop in and out throughout the play, each time outfitted with exquisite, color-coordinated costumes (and wigs) more wondrous and gorgeous than the ones they wore in the previous scene.
Then comes Seymour. Jude Sandy, in what might be his finest Trinity performance (what a voice!) plays the nerdy but endearing Seymour, one of two misfit Mishnik employees. Rebecca Gibel as Audrey, the other employee, and Seymour's secret crush, is superlative as the nervous New York naïf. Gibel put her heart and soul into Audrey Monday night and was beyond adorable — in her snug-fitting leopard prints, leather and faux furs — as she fretted to and fro. Part Marilyn Monroe, part Betty Boop, part Shirley Temple and part Edith Bunker, Gibel hits it to the moon and back. From her New York accent, to her distinctive strutting and blonde wigs; from her desire to dine at HoJo's and be more like Donna Reed and Betty Crocker, Gibel is confectionary. (She too has quite the voice!) But alas, she's "got a past" and believes she's got to stick it out with her beau, Orin, the dentist (Stephen Thorne gives his usual stellar performance) with a sadistic-masochistic streak.
When the misanthropic Mushnik (Stephen Berenson is perfect for and in the role of the downtrodden shopkeeper) threatens to close his shop forever, Seymour suggests putting Audrey Two in the window to attract attention and customers. Little Audrey turns into big Audrey and does more than attract attention. Poor Seymour, who discovered his plant's lust for blood after pricking his finger, and now has to find a steady supply to satisfy the carnivore. Who will be the next victim? Head to Trinity to find out.
Tyler Dobrowsky directs this gem of a show which also features appearances by Olivia Miller, Janice Duclos, Taavon Gamble, Timothy Crowe and Emma Sheldon and EJ Spillberg, as the children — who brought down the house.
This was such a wonderful show I even forgot that there had been a technical glitch with the machine that moves the stage in and out — even though it caused an odd and unusual delay. But nobody seemed to care. For all we knew, it was all part of the foolishness and fun. Oh, and be forewarned if you end up sitting in the front row: you may very well become part of the show as did one delighted gentleman Monday night.