Monday, November 20, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Theatre By The Bay's production of Little Shop Of Horrors at Bay Terrace Garden Jewish Center by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

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. Thomas Robert Stevens 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
Reviewed 11/19/17

Little Shop Of Horrors had its world premiere Off-Off Broadway on May 6, 1982, at the Workshop of the Players' Art (WPA) Theatre where it ran through June 6, 1982. It opened Off-Broadway at the Orpheum Theatre in Manhattan's East Village on July 27, 1982, closing on November 1, 1987, after 2,209 performances. Since it was not produced on Broadway, the original production was ineligible for the 1982 Tony Awards. The musical was based on a 1960 black comedy entitled The Little Shop Of Horrors. A second movie was released in 1982 that closely followed the plot of the original musical. On October 2, 2003, Little Shop Of Horrors finally made its Broadway debut at Virginia Theatre but in light of the show's success in film and numerous regional productions, it was classified in the "Revival" category for the purposes of the 2003 Tony Awards. The production closed on August 22, 2004, after 40 previews and 372 regular performances.

The musical is set on Skid Row in New York City where, after a total eclipse of the sun, Seymour Krelborn, finds, and purchases, an odd-looking plant at the wholesale flower market that feeds on human blood and flesh. Seymour is secretly in love with Audrey and names the new plant Audrey II. Seymour is a hapless, unfortunate orphan, who was taken in by Mr. Mushnik, the owner of Mushnik's Flower Shop, a struggling business that starts to boom as Audrey II (a "strange and interesting plant") starts to grow and draw media attention and curious customers. However, the price of this new prosperity is the requirement that Seymour "feed" the plant. First, he fails to save Orin Scrivello, D.D.S., Audrey's abusive boyfriend, who Seymour chops up into digestible pieces. Second, he tells Mr. Mushnik, who suspects Seymour killed Audrey's boyfriend and wants him to speak to the police,  that he has hidden the flower shop's receipts in the plant, knowing that when he goes looking for them, he too will be consumed. Many financially lucrative offers start coming Seymour's way but when he learns Audrey would still love him even if he were poor, Seymour decides to end the human slaughter but before he has the chance to kill the plant, it lures Audrey in and eventually eats her too. Seymour shoots the plant, tries to poison it, and eventually climbs into it with a machete - only to be killed by the talking plant from outer space. Little Audrey II's start popping up throughout the country some with faces you may recognize. Whatever you do, don't feed the plant!

The music in this musical is in the style of early 1960s rock and roll, doo-wop, and early Motown. You might be familiar with "Skid Row (Downtown)," "Somewhere That's Green," and "Suddenly Seymour." Orin Scrivello, D.D.S., brilliantly played by Michael Chimenti, is a "Leader of the Pack" character (think Fonzie from Happy Days), who wears a leather jacket and rides a motorcycle. The three black street urchins, Ronnette (Menyon Harrell), Crystal (Chantel Nicole), and Chiffon (Steffy Jolin) are named after and are reminiscent of girl groups of the 1960s (They weren't in school because they were on the split shift. "We went to school until the 5th grade and then we split."). All three have powerful voices and appear to prosper along with Seymour by introducing to him those with business propositions to offer such as Mrs. Luce (Fern Nash) who wants to put Seymour on the cover of Life Magazine; Skip Snip (John Canning), from William Morris, who wants to book Seymour on a lecture tour; and Patrick Martin (Julian Maultsby), who wants to take clippings from Audrey II to license them out to businessmen throughout the world. Veronica Picone, Fran Geier, and Olivia Klansky were all strong members of the ensemble, and Eli Koenig hit just the right tone as the sour, abusive, Mushnik, who adopted Seymour and made him a partner in the flower shop to ensure he wouldn't leave him for greener pastures. Special recognition needs to go to Julian Maultsby, the convincing voice of Audrey II, and to Eric Fiebelkorn, who sat under the puppet and brought Audrey II to life. Cathy Chimenti, the Director, deserves a lot of credit for making this production an unmitigated success. In my opinion, she did an amazing job and made the show thoroughly enjoyable.

Theatre By The Bay is a hidden gem that has been producing high-quality theater for many years. Concession prices are reasonable. The staff is friendly. Most importantly, the lead actors in almost all their productions are highly professional and just as good, if not better, than many of the actors who perform on Broadway. Two such actors in this production of Little Shop Of Horrors were  Nicole Intravia, who played Audrey, and Billy Marengo, who was Seymour. I recently saw Ms. Intravia play Emily Webb in Our Town at Studio Theatre Long Island and I can attest to the fact that she is an extremely talented, high-quality actress with an excellent voice. She never disappoints! Billy Marengo was simply brilliant as Seymour. Always perfectly in character, he impressed me with every line he spoke and each song he sang. I look forward to seeing more of this rising star. He and Nicole made the perfect couple to lead this production, making it one of the best revivals of Little Shop Of Horrors I have ever seen. 

I understand that the quality of community theater productions can vary widely. For that reason, I will make three recommendations. If you want to see consistent high-quality theater in Brooklyn, go to The Gallery Players in Park Slope. If you live closer to Suffolk County, I recommend Studio Theatre Long Island in Lindenhurst, and if you live in Queens, Theatre By The Bay will rarely let you down. For information on future productions, call 718-428-6363 or visit their website at 

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