This review of Theatre By The Bay's production of Little Shop Of Horrors at the Bay Terrace Garden Jewish Center was written by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Little Shop Of Horrors
Book & Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Music by Alan Menken
Director: Cathy Chimenti
Choreographer: Jenifer Badamo
Musical Director: Alan Baboff
Theatre By The Bay
Bay Terrace Garden Jewish Center
13-00 209th Street
Bayside, New York 11360
I was in for a treat when I decided to see Little Shop Of Horrors at Theatre By The Bay. I ended up enjoying a Broadway quality experience in my own backyard for a fraction of the cost of traveling to Times Square. This musical is a homage to the cinematic science fiction movies of the 1950s that often featured stories of alien invasion. In Little Shop Of Horrors, this takes the form of Audrey II, a plant named for the woman Seymour worships from afar. It turns out the plant speaks English and becomes the star of Mushnik's Flower Shop at which both work. The actors sparkled in their roles. Billy Marengo was perfect as the hapless Seymour, the discoverer of Audrey II, the mysterious plant from outer space. Nicole Intravia played the dumb blonde perfectly. Eli Koenig epitomized Mushnik, the much put-upon but devious flower shop owner. Michael Chimenti personified Orin Scrivello, DDS, the dentist from hell. Fern Nash, Veronica Picone, John Canning, Fran Geier, and Olivia Klansky were equally good in their lesser, but still significant, roles.
Cathy Chimenti did a marvelous job directing that brought out the finest performances from the actors - both veterans and first-timers. I thought all the actors were perfectly cast for their roles. I especially liked the doo-wop girl trio - Menyon Harrell as Ronette, Chantel Nicole as Crystal, and Steffy Jolin as Chiffon. They played an enhanced role in this production without overshadowing the other actors. They sang in accord with the musical style of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Their harmonies enhanced the skid row atmosphere of the neighborhood where the action was taking place. The costume designs by Chery Manniello reinforced the feeling that you were back in the 1950s.
John Baratta, aided by John Palmieri, did a fine job on the set design while Lila Edelkind did a good job providing the props. The troupers could walk through the walls to symbolize a change of location, which made the play transition from one scene to another very smoothly. Their biggest challenge was to bring Audrey II, as a puppet, to life. Erik Fiebelkorn manipulated the puppet while Julian Maultsby supplied the voice. Glenn Rivano, Peter Accardi, and Peter Zhong skillfully handled the lighting to emphasize the characters and changes in time and locations. Jenifer Badamo did an excellent job as choreographer aided by Menyon Harrell and Chantel Nicole. Fred Lederman on drums, David Rose on bass, and Alan Baboff on piano, who also doubled as the Musical Director, together sounded as if they were a whole Broadway orchestra. Megan Materazo and Jacob Koch artfully handled the sound system so that it enhanced the quality of performance by actors and musicians alike.
Producer/Stage Manager Barbara Koenig, aided by Eli Koenig, Martha Stein, and Helene Schwartz coordinated so well to bring this production to life. In a way, this community production personified America as different ethnic and racial groups were well represented in the performance and behind the scenes. This observation was prompted by a comment my friend, Dr. Tom Stevens, President of the Beaux Arts Society, Inc., said to an actor he had previously reviewed on another occasion. Dr. Stevens mentioned the high quality and diversity of the actors we get to see perform on Long Island - New York City and suburbia. He explained there are a large number of professional actors performing in community theater who decided to pursue other careers to support their families, who, with luck and sacrifice, might have made it big.
We are fortunate to have a community theater of such fine quality in our neighborhood. For more information regarding future productions by Theatre By The Bay, call 718-428-6363 or visit www.theatrebythebayny.com