'Little Shop' delivers laughter, not shivers Review: The Chesapeake Music Hall's show emphasizes the humor of 'Horrors,' and the actors make the most of it.

July 02, 1998|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

You know going in that a well-done "Little Shop of Horrors" is going to be a hilarious enterprise, and the Chesapeake Music Hall's version is very funny, indeed.

CMH has played down the potentially darker aspects of this hit musical comedy about the Faustian bargain struck by Seymour Krellborn, the nebbishy Skid Row florist, with Audrey II, the man-eating plant from outer space, and given us a light, frothy account that works very well.

So you won't get much in the way of scary lighting or bloody feedings. The three girls who function as a Greek chorus keep the ominous level down by playing things nice and easy, and the plant (given voice by Music Hall perennial David Reynolds) wouldn't cause a 5-year-old's lip to quiver even once.

Physical comedy

What you will get are bright, amusing characterizations by comic actors of considerable talent.

Charlie Rogers is most enjoyable as the hapless botanist. Facially, he is a riot, and his flair for physical comedy comes out in some hilarious dancing during his "Get It!" duet with the runaway plant. Rogers' singing isn't helped by slow tempos on the show's accompanying tape, but he manages to sound pretty good nevertheless.

Lovable heroine

Audrey, Seymour's ditsy love interest, has become one of the great comic roles of the musical stage, and Tere Fulmer won't disappoint you. Her timing is delicious ("Now isn't that bizarre!"), and her "Suddenly Seymour" with Rogers is right on target. You'll love her.

Plant brought to life

Alan Hoffman is suitably sleazy as the sadistic dentist destined to become plant food at the end of Act I, and the delightful Reynolds reprises bits of Tevye the Dairyman as Mushnik, the flower shop owner consumed by his intergalactic inventory, in more ways than one. His "Mushnik & Son" with Rogers is the funniest song in the show.

For the most part, the show looks good. All of the horrendously difficult plant management goes extremely well, thanks to Audrey II's handler, Michael McGranahan.

Lighting changes could be quicker -- a couple of scenes Friday began in the dark, some scenes are cluttered with extraneous people.

'50s beat and buffet

The accompanying tape sounds fine but misses a drumbeat. A score inspired by '50s rock needs a little rhythm.

The buffet, by the way, is excellent. New chef Joe Rose, the talented singer-actor who starred in CMH's just-closed production of "Damn Yankees," is almost as good in the kitchen as he is on stage.

The show runs Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons through Aug. 30.

Reservations: 410-626-7515.

Pub Date: 7/02/98

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