I could not have been more excited to check out Little Shop of Horrors at the VLT this past weekend. As a kid I used to watch Frank Oz’s 1986 remake of Roger Corman’s 1960 horticultural classic on repeat, dreaming of the day I would be old enough to have a leopard-print dress of my own. And although there was no “Mean Green Mother From Outer Space,” complete with singing baby plants, the VLT cast and crew did not disappoint my childhood expectations.
Little Shop of Horrors is a delightful sci-fi comedy/musical set in the ’60s about a down and out florist, Seymour (Cody Mendonca), and his bloodthirsty, otherworldly Venus flytrap, Audrey II (Scott Machado). Seymour is in love with the original Audrey (Sabrina Gross) — every little girl from Long Island’s tight-dress-wearing icon — but a happy ending is hard to come by when you’re stuck on skid row with a man-eating plant.
Director Chris Pinto does a fine job of representing the socioeconomic plague inherent to the play by exhibiting both the weight of life in the slums and the immensely elaborate green metaphor always growing on stage. The colors and words of the sets have a heaviness; the characters trudge their way from number to number, bound to a life of poverty. Even in times of hope and possibility, we still sense that the hunger for more will never be satisfied. This play, however, is not all empty wishes; we find plenty to be gobbled up.
The music, Alan Menken’s handy work, is an incredibly catchy and infecting blend of doo wop and ’60s pop rock. Likewise, all the vocal players in Pinto’s botanical skid row are exceptionally talented. Gross, though perhaps not quite as over the top and big haired as I imagine Audrey to be, is especially powerful in her vocal performance, blending both the sweet and savory. Orin (Esack Grueskin) is also notable as Audrey’s hysterical, albeit sadistic, nitrous oxide-huffing boyfriend.
While Little Shop invites you to indulge and immerse yourself in two hours of ludicrous ear candy, it also offers a clear warning: Don’t sell your soul for success, and don’t feed your plants dismembered body parts.
Little Shop of Horrors runs through June 23 at Very Little Theatre. Tickets are $19 to $23 at TheVLT.com.