A review of “Little Shop of Horrors” by Theatre3
Not to take too much away from the overall brilliant performance of the cast and crew of Theatre3’s “Little Shop of Horrors” now playing through Oct 31, 2021, at Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre (6200 E Grand Ave Dallas TX), but WOW! No knock on Rick Moranis, but I did not notice the incredible depth of philosophic layers in this musical when I saw it for the first time in the early 90’s.
If you missed the 1986 movie directed by Frank Oz (there’s a bunch of “based on” and “originally performed by” on wikipedia if you’re into that kind of thing, and if you don’t know who Frank Oz is, go ahead and click that link too, I got a word count to think about) and are unfamiliar with the play: following a surprise total eclipse of the sun, a poor schmuck who works at a run down flower shop in a generic “skid row” named Seymour (the charming Alejandro Saucedo) finds himself the owner of a curious venus fly trap-like plant he names Audrey II (voiced by the talented Rodney M. Morris, puppetry by Ben Stegmair). We find out that this curious fly trap has the magical ability to bring prosperity and riches to those around it, but only if it is fed….human blood.
In terms of the philosophical layers: there’s so much going on in this musical. The promise of prosperity and riches and all you have to do is feed your friends and loved ones to a plant, yet it will inevitably devour you as well. The religious themes embedded in the “angry father figure” who happens to be Jewish (wonderfully done by Bob Reed), his quasi-son Seymour who he makes to suffer for years before he decides to sacrifice himself for humanity. Seymour’s love of Audrey (Lee Walter, more to follow on this terrific performer), the shop girl “with a past,” who is beaten by her boyfriend Dr. Orin, D.D.S. (Parker Gray, who was also wonderful and played roughly six other parts). That’s too many parentheticals and I’m taking too long to get to the point: lots of bible stuff going on here. Yahweh, Jesus, Magdalene. Is Orin John the Baptist? Still working on that.
So we’ve got envy, the “green eyed monster,” who devours everything in its path. We have a good dose of Judaism and Christianity, what are we missing? Well I think there’s a case to be made that Audrey II is a not so subtle homage to Freud and Lacan’s thoughts on the phallus.
But let’s talk about the play! I hear people like that in theater reviews. Let Lee Walter sing! A rapturous voice. Alejandro Saucedo, who was a stand out in Theatre3’s “The Music Man” was mesmerizing. I’d love to see him (and I am not joking here) get a shot at Hamlet. I want to see what he can do with it. The greek chorus (yes, I’m leaving that unexplained, column space….) of Nikka Morton, Cherish Robinson, and Audra Scott, were delightful. How difficult is Audrey II to pull off! I’m intrigued in exactly how director Joel Ferrell managed this, but the voice work by Rodney M. Morris was great and the puppetry by Ben Stegmair…somebody get Ben a gatorade. My god that’s a big puppet (see above re: Freud/Lacan). I was shocked to learn that this was Parker Gray’s debut with Theatre3, so congratulations and bravo to Mr. Gray. His Dr. Orin, D.D.S., was pitch perfect. When Orin becomes Audrey II’s first victim, Mr. Gray’s reappearance as various characters offering Seymour fame and fortune works thematically as well as gives Mr. Gray an opportunity to show off his comedic ability and a solid Peter Sellers homage.
The addition of a live band on stage was a nice touch that kept the energy high. It seemed like there were a few sound issues in the first scene, but it was opening night and Theatre3 is in rep with Shakespeare Dallas, so one can’t be too nitpicky….unless you’ve been very positive about a play, in that case you can nitpick a bit. So I will also add that the bit of waist-high lighted columns front and center on stage distracted from the actors and was unnecessary.
Overall though, great job Theatre3 cast and crew. Not having an official home while their playhouse is under renovation is a huge challenge and they should be proud of their work.
[Published via KatyTrailWeekly.com]