A Solid And Sordid “Little Shop Of Horrors” Closes Stray Dog’s Tenth Season

Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette assist Seymour in discovering the deep, dark secret of Audrey Two in Stray Dog's "Little Shop Of Horrors." Photo: John Lamb

Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette assist Seymour in discovering the deep, dark secrets of Audrey Two in Stray Dog’s “Little Shop Of Horrors.” Photo: John Lamb

From the squalor of Skid Row we once again learn the valuable lesson- “don’t feed the plants”- as Stray Dog Theatre brings the popular “Little Shop Of Horrors” to their stage in a clever and well-sung production. This closes their highly successful 10th season and everything about this company keeps getting better and better.

Stray Dog regular, Ben Watts, was born to play Seymour Krelborn- the hapless hero who toils away at Mushnik’s Florist until he stumbles on a remarkable plant that appears to be a one-of-a-kind. Naming it after the secret love of his life- fellow flower shop minion, Audrey- the plant, Audrey Two, develops a strange appetite and it’s not for plant food. Watts uses a high pitched whine and equally glass-shattering singing voice as the perfect take for Seymour and makes him all the more lovable as he struggles with the plant, his longing for Audrey and the sudden success that the plant brings him as it grows into a behemoth over two acts.

 

Lindsey Jones, Christopher R. Brenner and Ben Watts prepare for the shop opening in "Little Shop Of Horrors" at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Lindsey Jones, Christopher R. Brenner and Ben Watts prepare for the shop opening in “Little Shop Of Horrors” at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Lindsey Jones gives a knock out performance as Audrey. She has the Skid Row twang as well and a sweet, powerful singing voice. From the ridiculously hilarious “Somewhere That’s Green” to the belting duet with Ben Watts on “Suddenly, Seymour,” she shows why she doesn’t really need the head mike. Keith Thompson keeps popping up in the strangest places- as a wino who “dramatically” urinates on a wall to the elderly Chinese man who sells the plant to Seymour to a sleazy agent. But his best role of the night is the sadistic dentist boyfriend of Audrey. As Orin Scrivella, DDS, he graphically relates how he was “born” to be a dentist and later uses the Black & Decker method of drilling teeth on Seymour. It’s another perfect, over the top performance that keeps the audience (fortunately) and Audrey (unfortunately) in stitches.

Ben Watts and Christopher R. Brenner celebrate their new relationship as a bigger, badder Audrey Two looms in the background. Photo: John Lamb

Ben Watts and Christopher R. Brenner celebrate their new relationship as a bigger, badder Audrey Two looms in the background. Photo: John Lamb

Christopher R. Brenner is the kindly yet scheming florist who plots to keep Seymour in his employ. He adds to the comic cast and displays a nice singing voice throughout. The three member “Greek chorus” who keep things moving exposition-wise during the proceedings are simply wonderful. Jamie Lynn Marble- who also provides the clever choreography- along with Maria Bartolotta and the “ringer,” Mark Saunders, make a delightful trio who move in and out of the action and all over and above the stage to keep us informed as well as entertained.

I guess you could say the real star of the show is Audrey Two. She manipulates and powers through the special agenda to the surprise ending of “Little Shop.” The powerful voice of Jeremy Sims commands respect from Seymour and fills him full of promises of everything he’s ever wanted. And a special nod as well to Dan Jones who is the “plant operator” behind the menacing Audrey Two. A terrific supporting cast plays everything from shop customers to news reporters to media reps and offer strong voices as the singing chorus.

Keith Thompson explains the joys of being a "Dentist" to the Skid Row trio in Stray Dog's "Little Shop Of Horrors." Photo: John Lamb

Keith Thompson explains the joys of being a “Dentist” to the Skid Row trio in Stray Dog’s “Little Shop Of Horrors.” Photo: John Lamb

Director Justin Been keeps things moving in this busy little musical with the assistance of the great band led by Chris Petersen. David Blake’s scenic design is spectacular featuring a rotating flower shop as the focal point and Tyler Duenow’s lights add just the right dramatic effect. The excellent costumes of Alexandra Scibetta Quigley include the awesome Audrey Two regalia.

Some rather dark but funny themes emerge as Stray Dog finishes off this season with “Little Shop Of Horrors” and opens next season with a repeat of their “bloodiest” production to date, “Evil Dead: The Musical.” Can’t wait to continue the horror-fest. Catch “Little Shop Of Horrors” at Stray Dog Theatre through August 3rd. Come visit them at the Tower Grove Abbey and contact them at straydogtheatre.org for tickets or more information.

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