REVIEW: With a double dose of vintage flair, Lyric Stage’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ will make audiences thirsty for more

This sad little flower shop on Skid Rowe holds a secret.

Tattered, lesser known movie posters such as ‘Mothra,’ ‘Planet of the Vampires,’ and ‘Attack of the Puppet People’ strewn fervently on brick, graffiti-covered walls provide is just a hint of the zany, B-movie glory that opens Lyric Stage Company of Boston’s 45th season with retro sci-fi musical comedy, ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ continuing through Sunday, October 6 at Lyric Stage in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.

From the inventive special effects to the fascinating, ‘blooming’ set,’ Lyric Stage makes two things abundantly clear:  Don’t feed the plants and everyone’s life should be narrated by a streetwise, Greek chorus.

‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ based on Jack Cullier’s 1932 story Green Thoughts, went on to become a cult classic, featuring actors such as Jack Nicholson, Bill Murray, Rick Moranis, Steve Martin, and John Candy stepping into its various film adaptations.  A remake is in the works as it marks its 60th anniversary in 2020.

It’s a seemingly simple tale about young love on Skid Rowe in a fledgling flower shop that houses a curious, unique breed of plant.  Some critics have compared it to the daring tone of the cult classic, ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show,’ but ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ offers a more subtle brand of campy charm.

Lyric Stage's Little Shop of Horrors Trio

From L to R: Pier Lamia Porter as Chiffon, Carla Martinez as Ronnette, and Lovely Hoffman as Crystal Photo credit to Mark S. Howard/Lyric Stage Company of Boston

Janie E Howland’s vivid, transformative set is remarkable right down to its carefully timed shop bell.  Not only does it pay homage to vintage films of its time, but ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is packed with 50s and 60s references such as ‘I Love Lucy,’ Howdy Doody, Donna Reed, and Betty Crocker.

Before going any further, let’s start with that Greek Chorus.  With few exceptions, the music, with lyrics by award-winning composer Alan Menken, have a catchy, rock n roll vibe including tunes that pay tribute to 60s girl groups.  From casual street garments to flashy glam, these three electrifying vocalists certainly know how to make an entrance.  Pier Lamia Porter as Chiffon, Lovely Hoffman as Crystal and Carla Martinez as Ronnette are a tough, humorous, and street-smart trio who unveil the real ins and outs of Skid Rowe through harmony, kicking it off with the catchy signature track, Little Shop of Horrors.

Lyric Stage Little Shop Remo Airaldi Dan Prior Katrina Z Pavao and Jeff Marcus

L to R: Remo Airaldi as Mr. Mushnik, Dan Prior as Seymour, Katrina Z Pavao as Audrey, and Jeff Marcus as a customer Photo credit to Mark S. Howard/Lyric Stage Company of Boston

The show has a gift for funny, ironic contrasts with a cast that has increasingly complicated motives.  Wearing black-rimmed glasses, a baseball cap, and fervently wiping his brow, Dan Prior gives real heart to Seymour, a sympathetic, yet conflicted botanist.  With an anxious demeanor and a light city accent, Prior emphasizes Seymour’s inherent, inescapable loneliness as he struggles to remain forthright and honest as the show progresses.  He shines in the darkly tender number Grow for Me and in his awkward adoration for trusting and frequently unlucky Audrey, portrayed wonderfully with plucky charm by Katrina Z Pavao.  In a particularly comical moment, Seymour hopes to take Audrey to “a fancy dinner at Howard Johnson’s.”

Pavao’s lovely soprano vocals carry a lullaby or a soulful belt with equal skill.  She shares her simple, 50s domestic dreams in a funny and tender rendition of Somewhere That’s Green and with Seymour in a powerful rendition of Suddenly Seymour.

Lyric Stage 'Little Shop of Horrors' Dan Prior as Seymour and Remo Airaldi as Mr Mushnik

Dan Prior as Seymour and Remo Airaldi as Mr. Mushnik Photo credit to Mark S. Howard/Lyric Stage Company of Boston

Disheveled and desperate in an old cardigan, Remo Airaldi takes on the role of frustrated flower shop owner, Mr. Mushnik.  Having delivered a deliciously dark comedic turn as Ben in Lyric Stage’s ‘The Little Foxes,’ Airaldi once again delivers a dark and memorable performance.  He is especially clever with Dan Prior as Seymour for the manipulative and comical number, Mushnik and Son.

Lyric Stage's 'Little Shop of Horrors' Carla Martinez Pier Lamia Porter Lovely Hoffman and Jeff Marcus

From L to R: Carla Martinez as Ronnette, Pier Lamia Porter as Chiffon, Lovely Hoffman as Crystal, and Jeff Marcus as Orin Photo credit to Mark S. Howard/Lyric Stage Company of Boston

Jeff Marcus brings out his campy, satiric best in several roles including a no-holds-barred performance as Orin, a belligerent, narcissistic biker dentist punctuated with a howling, maniacal laugh.  Marcus and Prior are particularly fun to watch, playing well off each other in the number, Now (It’s Just the Gas). 

Lyric Stage's 'Little Shop of Horrors' Dan Prior as Seymour and Audrey II

Dan Prior as Seymour and Yewande Odetoyinbo as Audrey II Photo credit to Mark S. Howard/Lyric Stage Company of Boston

However, the real spectacle is  Audrey II, the sly, soulful plant that changes everything.  With versatile and grimly wise vocals by Yewande Odetoyinbo, inventively manipulated by Tim Hoover, and skillfully designed by Cameron McEachern, Audrey II is a comical, extraordinary specimen right down to her bright colors and shiny, dangling teeth.  Audrey II is handled in such an innovative, natural, and majestic way, the results are truly mesmerizing.

Directed and choreographed by Rachel Bertone, Lyric Stage’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ continues through October 6 at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets and here for what is coming up during Lyric Stage’s 45th season.

REVIEW: Avarice and deceit rule the day as Lyric Stage Company presents Lillian Hellman’s riveting ‘The Little Foxes’

They hunt, fight, and are particularly clever.  Foxes stalk their prey and can strike from dusk till dawn.  Once they pounce, they leave ruin in their wake.

Lillian Hellman’s powerful play, The Little Foxes recently celebrated its 80th anniversary opening on Broadway and the 90th anniversary since the play was first published.  After seeing this production for the first time at the Lyric Stage Company, there is no question why this show possesses such longevity.  It’s an intense, intriguing drama where power is paramount and, given the right players as was done here, never a dull moment.

Directed by award-winning director Scott Edmiston, The Lyric Stage Company of Boston presents Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes through Sunday, March 17 at 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  The show is told in three riveting acts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

The Little Foxes

Lyric Stage Company of Boston presents ‘The Little Foxes’ through March 17 Photo courtesy of The Lyric Stage Company

Taking place during the post-Civil War era at the turn of the century, The Little Foxes depicts a Southern family of means who are never satisfied.  They intend to strike a lucrative deal with Bill Mootos as affluent and distinguished William Marshall, a man who may hold the key to a big payoff.  However, can this family work together or is it every man for himself?

An ornate, brass chandelier, a grand staircase, and detailed glass doors are a just a few of the opulent features of Janie E. Howland’s exquisite set design.  Gail Astrid Buckley’s enthralling costume design boasts ladies adorned in elegant, detailed gowns faithful to the era as gentlemen dress to the nines in coat and tails.  Karen Perlow’s dramatic lighting combined with Scott Emiston’s skillful direction produce a simmering intensity while augmenting the show’s poignant moments.

The Little Foxes Cast

From L to R: Remo Airaldi as Ben, Michael John Ciszewski as Leo, Bill Mootos as William Marshall, Kinson Theodoris as Cal, Anne Gottlieb as Regina, Cheryl D. Singleton as Addie, Rosa Procaccino as Alexandra, and Amelia Broome as Birdie Photo courtesy of Lyric Stage Company

The Little Foxes features a stellar cast, headlined by Anne Gottlieb as sophisticated and aptly named Regina Giddens.  Her charm and shrewdness could give Scarlett O’Hara a run for her money.  Gottlieb’s visibly charming demeanor hides a smoldering callousness, a woman who will sacrifice anything for what she wants.  Her shifty eyes and perfect red lips wind in a smile as she calculates her next move.  Her astonishing scenes with Craig Mathers as wise, ailing Horace Giddens alone is worth the price of admission.

Amelia Broome delivers a moving performance as aristocrat Birdie Hubbard.  Flanked in pearls and ethereal, flowing gowns, Broome, her face taut and wide-eyed, depicts Birdie’s palpable anxiety, a compassionate soul who has seen too much and longs for the past.  She shares a sweet camaraderie with Rosa Procaccino as naïve Alexandra Giddens who Birdie sees so much of herself in her while Birdie’s encounters with Will McGarrahan as Oscar, her unpredictable husband, are gripping.

The Little Foxes Horace and Birdie

From L to R: Remo Airaldi as Ben, Michael John Ciszewski as Leo, Will McGarrahan as Oscar, Amelia Broome as Birdie, Craig Mathers as Horace, and Anne Gottlieb as Regina Photo courtesy of Lyric Stage Company

With a gleeful, audacious laugh, Remo Airaldi delivers a memorable, complex performance as Benjamin Hubbard.  His careful balance between humor and deceit make him intriguing, interacting with each character with ever-changing faces.

After portraying a swaggering, conceited Smee in Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s Peter and the Starcatcher last year, Michael Jon Ciszewski brings his quite fittingly scene-chewing charisma to the smarmy Leo Hubbard.  Cheryl D. Singleton as all-knowing Addie and Kinson Theodoris as Cal are wonderful, delivering some of the show’s most insightful and humorous moments.

What makes The Little Foxes such a fascinating work in the 90 years and counting since it was first presented onstage is its universal truths.  When is enough enough?  In a world of double crosses and scheming to get the lion’s share, when it is enough to be grateful for what you already have?  I guess for some families, the thrill is in the chase.

The Lyric Stage Company continues Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes through Sunday, February 3 at 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for tickets and more information.  Subscriptions and dinner packages are also available.  Follow The Lyric Stage on Twitter and Facebook for their upcoming productions and more.