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Little Shop of Horrors

The classic musical mashup of sci-fi, horror, comedy and ‘50s rock is an absolute delight

Audrey (Jennifer Redston) and Seymour (Niclas Olson) welcome the carnivorous Audrey II to Earth. Photo credit: Tim Johnston

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For a certain generation of people, seeing the 1986, Frank Oz-directed Little Shop of Horrors was likely their first exposure to the magic that a musical can possess. Starring Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene, along with oddball supporting turns from Steve Martin and Bill Murray, Little Shop of Horrors took a mostly forgettable B movie and imbued it with an irreverent sense of humor and a handful of genuinely affecting songs that perfectly fit the story's heightened reality. Now, Lakewood Playhouse has staged their own version of the classic musical to close out its 79th season, and the result is absolutely delightful, hilarious and moving, with a pronounced cynical streak.

Niclas Olson and Jennifer Redston star as Seymour and Audrey, two meek, lovable characters working in a flower shop on skid row. When the flower shop seems in danger of closing for good, since no one wants to buy flowers in a bad neighborhood, Seymour offers up a mysterious new plant to serve as an attraction to bring in customers: Audrey II, as he names it, showed up suddenly after a solar eclipse, and it requires not just ordinary plant food, but human flesh, to grow. And grow it does, with a number of exquisitely designed puppets charting its rise from lowly potted plant to its later stature of a hulking monstrosity. Once it's big enough to talk (and sing), Audrey II takes on the sultry tones of Eric Clausell, who nails the role that was originally voiced by Levi Stubbs.

Clausell isn't the only one who succeeds in effortlessly evoking the film version of Little Shop, with Redston sounding the spitting image of Ellen Greene's mousy, Queens accent, and wonderfully shouldering the majority of the musical's emotional weight. Olson plays Seymour as more dopey and innocent than Rick Moranis' nebbishy take, but it's a full-bodied comedic performance that capitalizes on the more cartoonish aspects of the show. William Johnson tackles Orin, the masochistic dentist boyfriend of Audrey's, in a role once filled by Steve Martin; while Johnson plays the role with a manic, full-tilt energy, he brings less of a greaser suavity to it than Martin did, favoring a cruder edge. And, as the flower shop owner Mushnik, Tim McFarlan is hysterical, and lays claim to the funniest musical number of the show. The rest of the cast is filled out by Toni Nicole Bridges, Brittany Griffins, and Joelle Craft as the Greek chorus of girl group singers who help solidify the ‘50s rock vibe of the songs. 

The show is a massive undertaking for a small theater like Lakewood Playhouse, and all the credit in the world is due to Director Chris Serface, as well as the incredibly talented crew that managed to stage such an effects-heavy show with such flawless execution. As the puppeteer for the increasingly enormous and unwieldy Audrey II, James Wrede performs an incredibly difficult task with aplomb. Truly, Little Shop of Horrors is a gem of ensemble and behind-the-scenes crew working in harmony together to create a work of exquisitely over-the-top fun.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, 8 p.m., Friday-Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through June 24, Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd. SW, Lakewood, $25-$30, 253.588.0042,

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