by Clark Groome
A man-eating plant seeking world domination, a series of complicated and very human relationships and Woody Guthrie’s life story and music make up the three shows I saw last week, one of the best theater weeks I’ve had in many a moon.
Little Shop of Horrors
Audrey II, the marvelously evil carnivorous plant that turns Mushnik’s Skid Row flower shop into a national phenomenon, has shown up at Bristol Riverside Theatre. As the focus of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s justifiably ever-popular “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Twoey,” as the plant is called, is surrounded by a delightful cast of characters.
Central to the story about the plant that grew up on a diet of blood are Seymour Krelborn (Andrew McMath), the exotic plant expert at Mushnik’s, and Audrey (Laura Giknis), the shop assistant who’s in an abusive relationship with the sadistic Orin Scrivello, DDS (Danny Vaccaro, who also plays five other parts).
One thing leads to another, and Orin, Mushnik (Daniel Marcus) and others end up being the plant food when Twoey demands that Seymour “Feed me.”
Menken’s music is perfect for the period; Ashman’s lyrics are clever, witty and smart. Acting as the Skid Row version of a Greek chorus are Chiffon (Lindsey Warren), Crystal (Candace Thomas) and Ronnette (Berlando Drake) who, like the real ’50s girl-groups after whom they’re named, sing terrifically.
On opening night, director Susan D. Atkinson’s Bristol’s production, which runs through June 8, got off to a tentative start, but by the time the plant had spoken its first words, it was just sailing along.
Jason Simms’ set, Linda B. Stockton’s many and often-hilarious costumes and Charles S. Reece’s lighting all add to the fun.
For tickets call 215-785-0100 or visit www.brtstage.org.
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change
Four actors, some nifty tunes by Jimmy Roberts and a smart book and strong lyrics by Joe DiPietro combine to make “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” a delightful and widely produced show.
The show chronicles what used to be called the battle of the sexes. Dating, mating, marrying, having kids and growing old are all part of it. In lesser hands it could have been pretty cloying. Not so with this show and the good production it’s receiving through June 29 at the Walnut Street Theatre’s Independence Studio on 3.
It’s really a series of sketches, most set to music, some not. Each hits the nail in question firmly on the head.
Bad dates, dirty diapers, awesome or awful sex, insecurities and all the rest are treated with honesty, sensitivity, wit and intelligence.
The Walnut’s excellent cast is Christopher Sutton (who also directs), Lyn Philistine, Fran Prisco and Ellie Mooney.
Musical director David Jenkins is at the piano; Ruth Kiang plays violin. Both are very good, as are designers Glen Sears (set), Julia Poiesz (costumes) and Joseph Glodek (lighting).
For tickets call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787 or visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org.
The great singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie grew up during the depression and suffered through that period as well as the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and World War II. His songs were often protests of the way ordinary Americans were treated by those in power.
Throughout his career, which was cut short by Huntington’s Disease in 1967 at age 55, he composed songs that have become standards in the folk music repertoire, most notably “This Land Is Your Land.” He worked with Pete Seeger and Leadbelly among many and is credited with being a major influence on Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and dozens of others.
His life story and a lot of his magnificent music are in “Woody Sez,” the People’s Light and Theatre import that will be in Malvern through May 25.
David M. Lutken, one of the show’s creators, is Guthrie in a performance that is as accomplished, impressive and enjoyable as any I’ve seen in a long time.
Working with him are Darcie Deaville, Helen J. Russell and Andy Teirstein, all of whom play and sing terrifically. They play any number of string instruments, the harmonica, spoons, a penny whistle and even a kazoo. It’s really great stuff – and Guthrie’s story and his commitment to the people is impressive as well.
Lutken’s co-creator Nick Corley directed the production that first appeared at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2007 and has since traveled all over the U.K. and the U.S. We’re lucky it has landed in Malvern.
For tickets call 610-644-3500 or visit www.peopleslight.org.
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