LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, directed by Ted Dykstra (CanStage). At the Bluma Appel (27 Front East). To December 15. $20-$89. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNN
Before they helped resurrect the animated Disney musical with Beauty And The Beast and The Little Mermaid, the songwriting team of Howard Ashman (lyrics) and Alan Menken (music) scored an off-Broadway hit with Little Shop Of Horrors , the campy musical that still holds box office records today.
Based on Roger Corman 's black-and-white cult classic movie - the one where Jack Nicholson plays a masochistic dental patient - the show has broad fun with its story of a man-eating plant named Audrey II whose controlling tendrils are all over the life of its timid owner, Seymour ( Ron Pederson ).
It's a Faust parable set in an urban wasteland, with characters who sound like they either went to Jewish summer camp or grew up in the Motor City.
A self-consciously tacky show like this can easily descend into smugness, but director Ted Dykstra avoids that, thanks largely to the well-drawn underdog roles of Seymour and his co-worker Audrey ( Patricia Zentilli ). Their burgeoning love affair is captured in a series of carefully constructed songs, and Pederson and Zentilli deliver each one with sincerity and commitment. They're equally good with the dialogue.
Réjean Cournoyer also stands out in multiple roles, especially as Audrey's sadistic dentist boyfriend. And the Greek chorus of sassy black backup singers ( Jenni Burke , Starr Domingue and Michelle E. White ) help push the plot along.
Michael Gianfrancesco 's set isn't the most imaginative construction - the laundry-line motif doesn't do much work, and strangely, there's not much change to the set in the second act.
Perhaps the production sank all its money into the evolving look and sound of Audrey II, who thanks to Erika Connor 's design, the puppetteering of Eric Woolfe and the off-stage voice work of Jeff Jones , becomes a living, breathing, bloodthirsty embodiment of pure id.