With 20 songs and the precedent of a 1983 film starring Steve Martin and Bill Murray, Little Shop of Horrors isn’t the easiest musical to pull off. But Red Cane Theater, home of the Phoinix Players, succeeds in telling the story of the Venus flytrap from Hell on Skid Row.
Little Shop of Horrors premiered on Broadway in 1982 and is based on the 1960 cult film of the same name. This dark surrealist comedy tells the story of Seymour, an orphan working at Mushnik’s Skid Row Florists who develops a new plant, called Audrey II. The plant brings in business, but only grows when it’s fed blood.
Fueled with newfound success and his love for the human Audrey, who also works at the flower shop, Seymour starts offering people to the plant.
Blending stacks of harmonies with tightly choreographed numbers (including a tap dance!), the cast revs up the energy and keeps it there for two hours, even after serving audience members drinks and snacks before the show. Despite the cartoony acting style often demanded by musical comedies, the cast somehow finds a balance between sincerity and caricature, making the characters likeable and more rounded than most in the genre.
Austin and Amanda Lawrence, who play Seymour and Audrey, have a charming chemistry — which may be part good acting and part the fact that they’re also married. Other standout performances come from the three women playing the siren trio who perform some of the show’s best vocal work, like the 30-second solo at the start of “Skid Row.” The plant is controlled by skillful puppeteers, who manage to bring one of the sauciest characters — with a great Motown voice by Daniel Halstead — out of an otherwise inanimate object.
Little Shop of Horrors is your last chance to see the Phoinix Players at the Red Cane Theater, the venue they have called home since 2012. After this weekend’s shows, the troupe will be hitting the road for the rest of the summer, performing both nationally and internationally.
Little Shop of Horrors runs 7 pm Friday and Saturday, July 17-18, at The Red Cane Theatre, 1077 Chambers St.; $17-$20 (dinner and dessert tickets are extra), 556-4524.