Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

THEATER REVIEW: 'Little Shop' Comes out on Top

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

THEATER REVIEW: 'Little Shop' Comes out on Top

Article excerpt

Multiple layers of nostalgia roll out in Theatre Tuscaloosa's "Little Shop of Horrors," of the finest kind, where the waves simultaneously acknowledge, mock and celebrate the past.

The first wave of warmth rolls in for those who fondly recall the hit 1986 film, directed by Frank Oz, based on the long-running off- Broadway musical.

Then there's a nice ripple for those nerds among us (present company included) who caught its source material, the low-budget dark comedy by Roger Corman, on a late-night Creature Feature or cable TV Corman retrospective.

And then there are the washes from the lovingly recreated pastiches of late '50s and early '60s rock and R&B sounds by Howard Ashman (book and lyrics) and Alan Menken (music), so smartly done that the score sounds like something you once knew and loved, even on first hearing.

Theatre Tuscaloosa blasts it out with a cartoonishly tilting building set by Andy Fitch; dressed up and down in "Mad Men" meets Motown meets Skid Row style by costumer Jeanette Waterman; and backed by a sharp band led by music director Terry Moore. The whole thing puts a smile on your face beginning to end.

Naturally, the production follows the stage show, not the movie, which altered the darker original ending after test audiences rejected it as too bleak, but the darker turn of the second act mostly works -- even if the finger-wagging sub-theme about love of money and success leading to disaster mostly doesn't -- in the kitschy Halloween spirit of the thing.

Where it falters, or could have learned from the movie, is from the lineup of songs. Some of the originals, such as "Closed for Renovation" and "Call Back in the Morning," were cut from the film, and as too-standard pieces, could easily have been left out of the show, or at least trimmed. The smidgen of comic effect isn't worth the extra length. "Mushnik and Sons" is a worthy keep, but "Now It's Just the Gas" goes on far too long and is more worrisome than entertaining: Will the actor finish singing before condensation fogs the bubble helmet entirely, obscuring his face? "Some Fun Now" from the film is sharper than its original version, "Ya Never Know," and the show misses a bigger, louder song such as the film's driving "Mean Green Mother from Outer Space" for the second act. …

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