Broadway’s most profitable show ever, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s sci-fi musical Little Shop of Horrors, is now playing at Infinity Theatre Company, a professional troupe from New York that is the area’s newest addition to the summer arts scene. If you missed their Annapolis debut with My Way last month, you’ll definitely want to take in this last show of their season. The host venue, The Children’s Theatre of Annapolis, may seem out of the way, but I promise it’s worth the trip.
Travel back in time to an era when Donna Reed, The Blob and soul music first fed the American pop psyche. Seymour Krelborn (Topher Nuccio), a nice schmuck with a green thumb, is Mr. Mushnik’s (Ira Denmark) lackey at the Skid Row Flower Shop, an unlikely place for hope and romance to blossom, until he discovers a mutant plant that could make his dreams come true. Seymour secretly loves his coworker, the tawdry innocent Audrey (Stacie Bono), but she’s trapped in an abusive relationship with Orin (Eric William Whitehead), a sadistic and addicted dentist.
Meanwhile, the plant, Audrey II (sung by Lamont Whitaker and puppeteered by John L. Ettinger), is a wilting promise until Seymour’s clumsiness unmasks its thirst for blood, which he naively indulges. The plant thrives like Jack’s beanstalk, bringing fame and fortune as its appetite outstrips Seymour’s bandaged fingers. When it demands flesh, Orin has a fortuitous accident that renders him plant food, entangling Seymour in a dangerous web of deception.
Can he milk the plant for all its worth before it eats him out of all his evil acquaintances? The presence of a Gospel-style Greek chorus of hip chicks, Crystal (Ariana Scoggins), Ronnette (Ardale Shepherd) and Chiffon (Martina Sykes) is a sure tip-off for tragedy. Let’s just say the answer requires emotional maturity, but then so does the rest of the PG-10 script.
This is a comical feast for the senses, rich in color and musical variety, with catchy hits like the poignant “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Suddenly Seymour,” the riotous “Dentist” and the raucous “Feed Me” and “Suppertime.” The dancing swings with spot-on perfection, as does the mood of the operatic storyline.
The cast is outstanding in every regard as their teamwork brings out the best in each performer. Only the band, an accomplished but loud group, managed to steal the spotlight on opening night with the piano drowning out some of the duet lyrics. There was also one uncomfortable point in Act II where backlighting spots blinded the audience, but these technical matters, perhaps reflective of big-show techniques adapted to a smaller theater, are easily remedied.
Musical comedy doesn’t get any better than this, and a portion of all proceeds goes to the Children’s Theatre of Annapolis, so you can feel extra good about your donation. Come marvel at the toothy pod and experience a rare treat.