John Szablewski Reviews

Theatre Review: ‘Little Shop Of Horrors’ at The Stratford Festival

Steve Ross (left) as Mr. Mushnik and André Morin in Little Shop of Horrors. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.

I’ve seen “Little Shop” at least 5 times, I’ve been in it, and I am a huge fan of the movie. To say that I know the story inside and out would be an understatement. “Little Shop” is always a goofy good time, no matter where it is produced. The awesome thing about this show, is when a professional theatre organization produces it, it take the story to a new level, and creates an exciting theatrical experience for the audience. When The Stratford Festival produces it, a show that rivals a Broadway production is what you get.

. . .an exciting production. . .But remember, whatever you do, don’t feed the plants!

“Little Shop Of Horrors” is the brain child of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, you know, the two guys that brought Disney back into the black in the 90’s, and is based on the 1960’s cult classic film of the same name. When Seymour (André Morin) a young florist discovers a strange and interesting plant during a solar eclipse, fame and fortune find him and the little skid row flower shop where he works. Mr. Mushnik (Steve Ross) finds the once annoying good for nothing Seymour to be worth while now that his plant it bringing in the big bucks, and co-worker Audrey (Gabi Epstein) finds a spark of interest in Seymour, after her bully of a boyfriend Orin Scrivello, D.D.S (Dan Chameroy) mysteriously disappears. The plant’s mysterious growth, and the interesting disappearances of the denizens of skid row, cause for a zany and over the top story that is a bloody good time!

Having been so close to the source material, it was nice to see some of the changes, ad-libs, and an odd new song in act two, that The Stratford presented last night at the opening performance of the show. The energy, music, and singing is fantastic, and the visual aesthetic of the production is a treat for the eyes.

Michael Gianfrancesco’s set design is fabulous and is a character in it’s own right. Mushnik’s florist shop hits the nail on the head as a run down shop. So many times you will see productions of “Little Shop” where the shop is beautiful when in reality it should look like it is falling apart. Peeling wallpaper, broken shelves, and crooked letters on the facade all add the the illusion of the down on it’s luck shop. The brick walls that surround the proscenium are also fantastic and frame the story perfectly.

Jamie Nesbitt’ projections are fun. I love Nesbitt’t work, having been introduced to it last season during “The Rocky Horror Show” and in “Oh What A Lovely War” at the Shaw Festival. He has a tendency of putting little surprises in his work which, as an art teacher, I fully appreciate. Look for the people cleaning the windows on skid row, my God are they clean, and the fun advertisements that appear during the show. I love his style. It is very comic book like, and it fits the 60’s time period well.

André Morin leads the show as the lovable loser, Seymour. Morin is a powerhouse. His voice is fantastic, and his performance of “Feed Me/Git It” is stellar. He truly understands the idiosyncrasies that make Seymour tick, and he hits each one of them on the head. He is a perfect choice for this role.

Dan Chameroy plays a slew of characters in this production, starting off with Orin the Dentist. I absolutely love the artistic choices that Chameroy brings to this character. Most of the time you see Orin portrayed as a very nasty, very overly mean and abusive man. This happens because you want to see Seymour feed him to Audrey 2, but Chameroy goes for the more goofy route here, and while I really like it, I don’t feel that his Orin deserves to be fed to a hungry plant, but this production aims for kitsch and meets it! During “The Meek Shall Inherit” Chameroy plays three different characters in the same song, implementing quick costume changes, and nodding that he is doing so to the audience, as he runs away taking off costume pieces. This part is very entertaining.

Gabi Epstein does a wonderful job as Audrey. There is a unwritten rule that those who play Audrey need to sound just like Ellen Green, the original Audrey from the 80’s. Epstein breaks the convention slightly, and it is fantastic. She makes Audrey new, and I loved it! Her performance of “Somewhere That’s Green” is wonderful, even if it is my least favorite song in the show.

Steve Ross is very funny as Mr. Musnik. His accent is humorous, his mannerisms are perfect, and his comedic delivery is very dry. You will not be disappointed.

Matthew G. Brown does a great job as the voice of Audrey 2, that man-eating plant.

Starr Domingue, Vanessa Sears, and Camille Eanga-Seienge, play the three Do-Wop girls who act as the greek chorus in this show, keeping the story flowing, and provide fantastic vocals. They start the show on a high note, and keep it rolling all throughout.

Overall, this is an exciting production, and does the material justice. You will not be disappointed! You’ll want to go back! But remember, whatever you do, don’t feed the plants!

Running Time: 2 Hours with one 15-minute intermission.

“Little Shop Of Horrors” runs until November 2, 2019 and is presented at The Stratford Festival in Ontario. For more information, click here.