Friday, October 9, 2015

Review: Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors, produced by Bristol Riverside Theatre, directed by Susan D. Atkinson, reviewed by Wendy Rosenfield.

Review: Little Shop of Horrors


By Wendy Rosenfield

for the Inquirer

Bristol Riverside Theatre's production ofLittle Shop of Horrors is affectionate and fun, and you and I both know why. No, the show doesn't have any of its contemporaries' trademarks: not Sondheim's sophisticated lyricism, Webber's puffed-up self-importance, Kander and Ebb's slickness, or Ahrens and Flaherty's jaunty appeal. Nonetheless, it's a closet favorite in the hearts of several recent generations of musical-theater lovers.

Maybe you first saw or performed it onstage as a kid, watched the Frank Oz-directed film featuring Rick Moranis and Steve Martin, or caught the Roger Corman original and spotted a young Jack Nicholson. Either way, both Audreys - blond and human, or green and whatever you want to call a bloodthirsty carnivorous plant with designs on world domination - no doubt left an impression. And Susan Atkinson's direction of this Howard Ashman/Alan Menken evergreen handles your memories with care (and will hook first-timers exactly the way it probably hooked you).

With a delightful cast - particularly Laura Giknis, whose ditsy, wounded Audrey hides a tightly controlled vocal command - and a game girl-group trio of Chiffon (Lindsey Warren), Crystal (Candace Thomas), and Ronnette (Berlando Drake, who earned her doo-wop skills honestly as one of Ray Charles' Raelettes), Menken's old-school tunes get a breath of fresh air. The boys aren't bad, either. Andrew McMath's dorky Seymour; Daniel Marcus' rotund, abrasive, Skid Row flower-shop owner Mushnik; Danny Vaccaro's greaser dentist Orin; and Carl Clemons-Hopkins' baritone Audrey II hold their own, if they don't quite match their counterparts' shimmer.

That shimmer is enhanced mightily by Linda B. Stockton's costumes, which range from slinky green sequin cocktail dresses for the gals to form-fitting shifts with a variety of leopard accents for Audrey. Jason Simms sets Mushnik's flower shop between tall tenements and on a turntable, revolving to reveal its exterior and interior, Audrey II expanding at each turn.

It bears mentioning that with everyone and the orchestra miked, singers compete with musicians and don't always win. And Audrey II, with a mouth that's just the right size to fit a human or three, could use one more growth spurt and a bit more mobility. But does any of that really matter once she starts howling, "Feed me"? No way. Bristol knows why audiences keep hungering for this show, and it gives us all we need to stoke that appetite.

Through June 8 at Bristol Riverside Theatre, 120 Radcliffe St., Bristol. Tickets: $15-$55. Information: 215-785-0100 or

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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