A great show from gaudy Audrey II Campy musical offers many laughs

September 06, 1992|By Charlotte Moler | Charlotte Moler,Contributing Writer

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but how about a 6-foot, hot-pink, people-eating plant named Audrey II?

The star of the bizarre musical "Little Shop of Horrors," Audrey II must be seen to be believed. And if you cruise down Belair Road a few miles to the White Marsh Dinner Theatre you can see her now through Sept. 27.

This is a '50s kind of show, complete with blond heart o' gold bimbo (Audrey), nerdy lovable hero (Seymour), and balding father figure (Mr. Mushnick) who periodically spouts Yiddish humor. Just for fun there's a sadistic dentist in black leather. And punctuating the action with an occasional "doo-wop shoo-bop" is a trio of poodle-skirted singers.

The action opens in Mushnick's Skid Row Flower Shop, where customers are scarce until Seymour discovers an odd little plant he christens Audrey II in honor of his cute co-worker Audrey.

Seymour convinces Mr. Mushnick to put Audrey II in the display window. As if by magic, the business blooms.

The future looks rosy, except for the fact that Seymour has

Band-Aids on every finger and Audrey's sporting a black eye, courtesy of her abusive dentist boyfriend.

We soon discover that Audrey II is even stranger than she looks, for this posy has a taste for human blood. Seymour laments, "I've given you sunshine, I've given you rain, but you won't be happy till I open a vein."

Soon Seymour is making plant food out of Audrey's nasty dentist. Thus begins the innocent Seymour's descent into evil, as he seeks out victims to feed his insatiable master.

Sound crazy? It all makes sense, really, and director John Desmone so captures the zany spirit of the script that you just roll with it, laughing all the way.

To begin with, the look of the show is terrific. The concept is '50s TV -- a boxy black-and-white set, great gaudy costumes and acres of teased-up hair.

The trio of girl singers -- Connie, Connie and Connie -- set the scene with a finger-popping prologue sung in close harmony. Bouncy and buxom, these three gals -- Alexandra Auty, Kimberly Auty and Tiffany Walker -- look like cheerleaders from hell and sound like angels. In Greek chorus fashion, they stroll on stage between scenes, make their musical comment, then jiggle off into the night.

Ed Peters' choreography is right on the money. He gets that '50s feel with economy and style, and without the heavy satire so often seen in the staging of nostalgia.

Kudos must also go to Peters for his wickedly funny portrayal of Orin the sadistic dentist. With his slicked back hair, jet-black eyebrows and icy blue eyes gleaming madly, he sings of his infatuation with dentistry in a side-splitting paean to pain.

Overall, the acting and singing are consistently strong. Even the minor characters, seven of which are played by quick-change artist Thomas Hessenauer, are memorable. Chuck Graham's Seymour exudes a klutzy puppy dog charm that's irresistible. Holly Pasciullo is a gifted comedian and looks great as the bubble-brained Audrey, but she's a bit too low-key here, especially in her rendition of the ballad, "Somewhere That's Green."

Unlike most musical comedies, this one ends in a minor key. With the advent of Audrey II and the fame she spawns, greed has become the name of the game on Skid Row.

Ignorant of her carnivorous ways, Hollywood promoters take cuttings from Audrey II with plans for franchises across America.

Will money-grubbing promoters destroy the country? Will ambition devour our nation's morals? Will greed become the credo of our country?

F: To quote Marx (Groucho, that is): "You bet your life!"

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