American Blues Theater’s “Little Shop of Horrors” Review – Bern Times Lend Campy Musical New Sting

Michael Mahler and Audrey II

 

If you too can’t go to the dentist without a smiling memory of the plant monster’s refrain “Feed Me!”, you no doubt will walk into American Blues Theater’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” primed to be tickled. 

 

Eunice Woods, Camille Robinson and Jasondra Johnson

 

American Blues Theater does not disappoint.  Right off  the bat we might be thinking that the Doo Wop styled Greek Chorus (Eunice Woods as Chiffon; Camille Robinson as Crystal; and Jasondra Johnson as Ronette) are going to steal the show with their rolling hip/eye shaking booties (Choreography:  Darian Tene ) while they sing with such style.   But then the entire cast does their parts at the same high level and you lose track of who is “the best”. 

 

Jasondra Johnson, Dara Cameron, Eunice Woods, Camille Robinson

 

Backtracking, for those who don’t know the movie etc. “Little Shop of Horrors” tells the tale of a how a klutzy loser floral assistant, Seymour (Michael Mahler) comes to cultivate a strange plant that becomes the talk of the town and a magnet for the Skid Row -located floral shop where he works. 

 

Mark David Kaplan, Michael Mahler and Dara Cameron

 

Along the way he wins the self-interested affections of his shop owner boss, Mr. Mushnik (Mark David Kaplan) and wins the love of his big crush, Audrey (Dara Cameron), for whom he named the exotic plant. 

 

There’s just one problem---this plant (with the incredible voice of Lorenzo Rush Jr.) feeds on human blood and has a voracious appetite that grows with its size. 

 

Michael Mahler as Seymour

 

Based on a low-budget cult classic movie from 1960, “Little Shop of Horrors” is a totally predictable story that delights in the telling, largely through 16 catchy songs that skewer capitalism and the American Dream (Musical version by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken debuted in 1982). 

 

These characters are down-and-out losers that want to escape the dead ends of skid row and make a break into suburban comfort.   Born during the “greed is good” decade, it struck this writer that “Little Shop of Horrors” satirical score has new resonance in our “Feel the Bern” and angry-as-hell-Trump-voter times.   If you are wondering what’s up with all these hedge fund and banker types living the life while others can’t pay for their college loans or in any way get ahead, this musical overflows with delicious gallows humor metaphors for the dynamics of American capitalism that will likely hit your sweet spot.

 

Michael Mahler as Seymour and his real-world wife Dara Cameron as Audrey

 

The cast helps you get this satisfaction, even if you, like this reviewer, can’t help but compare them in your mind’s eye to the star-studded cast of the 1986 re-make of the “Little Shop of Horrors” movie. Mahler has the golden chords for this role and captures that mensch-plusness of his Seymour character, but has to work against his pretty face in a way that funny-faced film star Rick Moranis never had to. 

 

Ian Paul Custer, Michael Mahler, Audrey II and Dara Cameron

 

Ian Paul Custer gives us a sadistic dentist character that is absolutely on par with Steve Martin’s memorable caricature in the film—and that’s saying A LOT! 

 

Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, this is one fun production, extended tol  July 31, 2016 .  For info or tix call 773 404 7336 or go online to buy your tickets on the American Blues Theater website.

 

Greenhouse Theater Center

2257 N. Lincoln Avenue

Chicago

 

Photos:  Johnny Knight

 

 

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