MTC’s “Little Shop of Horrors” Lacks Some Chemistry

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Anthony DiCostanzo as Seymour. Photo by Joe Landry.
Anthony DiCostanzo as Seymour. Photo by Joe Landry.

By Karen Isaacs

 Little Shop of Horrors is a popular show for smaller theaters to produce.  It doesn’t need a lot of sets and the small cast (6 on stage members plus the voice of Audrey II) makes it cost effective.

The production of the show at MTC (Music Theatre of Connecticut) through May 3 may not win any awards but it is a enjoyable time in the theater.  It is particularly good for young people — five of the cast members are young adults, the music is a soft-rock and the story appeals to comedy and horror film fans.

If you don’t remember the musical or the film on which it was based, it tells the story of Seymour,  a gawky clerk in a flower shop on skid row who is fascinated with exotic plants. One plant which he has named Audrey II begins to attract attention;  it is some sort of Venus flytrap but he is not sure of what kind.  He soon finds out.

Lou Ursone as Mushnik and Elissa DeMaria as Audrey. Photo by Joe Landry.
Lou Ursone as Mushnik and Elissa DeMaria as Audrey. Photo by Joe Landry.

Also working at the shop is Audrey, a young lady with low self-esteem and a tendency to date abusive guys; her current squeeze is a sadistic dentist.

The plot revolves learning what type of food the plant wants, watching it grow, and the budding success of the store due to the plant. Of course, the romance buds and grows also.

Probably the best known songs from the show which has book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken are “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Suddenly Seymour.”

This production, directed by artistic director Kevin Connors, presents the story clearly and pleasantly.  The set by David Heuvelman uses a curtain that is pulled and opened — almost like a shower curtain —  to reveal the inside of the shop. The costumes by Diane Vanderkroef captures the ’70s mood as well as the skid row setting — their taste level is “slightly tacky.”  A three piece band led by Thomas Martin Conroy provides the accompaniment.

Photo by Joe Landry
Photo by Joe Landry

The cast is more than up to the requirements of the show.  Inuka Ivaska, Kristian Espiritu and Gabrielle Lee play “The Supremes” like chorus that provides commentary, settings and the neighborhood girls.  They do it with style.

Lou Ursone is Mushnik, the owner of the shop. I would have liked a little bit more energy in his performance.  Peter McClung provides the sonorous voice of Audrey II and makes the plant sound truly terrifying.

Tony Lawson gets to ham it up in multiple roles including that of Audrey’s sadistic dentist, a reporter, an agent and everyone else.  Sometimes they seem too similar.

As Audrey, Elissa DeMaria emphasizes the “ditzy” qualities of the young woman while also hinting at the loneliness she feels.  As Seymour Anthony DiCostanzo turns from a gawky, clumsy geek to a young man.

Anthony DiCostanzo as Seymour and Tony Lawson as Orin. Photo by Joe Landry.
Anthony DiCostanzo as Seymour and Tony Lawson as Orin. Photo by Joe Landry.

However, what seems to be lacking in this production is real chemistry between Seymour and Audrey.  You just don’t quite believe they are attracted to each other.

In fact, that is the general problem with this production — they sing the songs, they dance, they say the lines but you feel it is all surface. It is acting, not creating a reality.

But for a pleasant experience at an affordable price, Little Shop of Horrows can be a fun.  It is MTC,  509 Westport Ave,, Norwalk, CT. For tickets or call 203-454-3883.

One comment

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