When we found out that Groffsauce (Jonathan Groff) would be starring in an off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors at the Westside Theatre, rtb and I were there. The Westside Theater only holds 270 people upstairs, so the tickets were selling quickly and we were able to get seats but not together. rtb got a great seat on the side near the stage and I got a seat in the center of the second to last row. She got a seat for her sister in the same row that was closer to the aisle. Since it is a small theater, all the seats are great. Except when big giant head sits in front of you.
I spent a lot of the show leaning from side to side to see the center stage action. Luckily a lot of the action takes place stage right or stage left, so I could see that more easily.
Everyone probably knows the story (and the songs) – Seymour (Groffsauce) is the nerdy employee of a flower shop in a rundown neighborhood run by Mr. Mushnik (Tom Alan Robbins). Seymour is in love with his co-worker Audrey (Tammy Blanchard), who is regularly beaten up by her boyfriend Orin (Christian Borle), who is a sadomasochistic dentist. Seymour develops a plant, who he calls Audrey II, that feeds on human blood and flesh and hilarity ensues. It was originally a campy Roger Corman movie with Jack Nicholson as the dentist, then an off-Broadway musical, a Broadway musical, and a movie musical.
Everyone is brilliant – especially Borle, who plays several people on the street in addition to playing Orin. The three urchins – Ronnette (Ari Groover), Crystal (Salome Smith), and Chiffon (Joy Woods) – provide the chorus for what is happening on stage. Audrey II’s deep voice is provided by Kingsley Leggs and Eric Wright and Teddy Yudain work the Audrey II puppet as the plant gets bigger and bigger. Various street people are also portrayed by Chris Dwan, Kris Roberts, Chelsea Turbin, Wright, and Yudain.
Groff transforms himself into a nerd. And it is not just the clothing and glasses. It is the way he carries himself in the world. Because the theater is so small we could see very bead of sweat on Groff and his constant spitting, which also worked for the character. rtb sent me an article that said he is aware of his sweating and spitting but on Broadway he is far enough from the audience for it not to be a problem (what about his co-stars?). But at the Westside, people in front row have to put their Playbills in front of their faces to avoid the spray.
There were a few times when it looked like either Borle or Groff were about to break character and laugh. It looks like the actors themselves are having a great time on stage.
I admit that some of the jokes about domestic violence were not as funny to me as they were to most of the audience. And sometimes, it was difficult to make out what the chorus of urchins were singing. The words were garbled. But all in all, this is a wonderful production.
By Carene Lydia Lopez