Lovely Little Shop, April 28 – May 19

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littleshopTennessee Repertory Theatre presents:
Little Shop of Horrors (Ages 12 and older)
TPAC’s Johnson Theater
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
782-4040 • tennesseerep.org
Show times: Tue – Thu 6:30 p.m., Fri 7:30 p.m., Sat 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $42.50

Upon entering the intimate Johson Theater in the basement of TPAC on opening night, it was apparent that Gary C. Hoff’s impeccable scenic design for Tennessee Rep’s final show of its 2011-12 season, Little Shop of Horrors, perfectly set the stage for an outstanding musical production.

Little Shop is a long-time audience favorite based on the 1960 low-budget black comedy film of the same name, and the Rep’s rendition is certainly among the best I’ve ever seen.

Backed by a tight, seven-piece band led by Paul Carrol Binkley, Laura Matula (Chiffon), Aleta Myles (Crystal) and Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva (Ronette) vibrantly dive in to the title number encompassing the doo-wap/Motown sound without a hitch. Throughout the show, they deliver powerful vocals on all of the musical’s memorable songs their voices grace.

Rep favorite Patrick Waller is a succinct choice to play the show’s leading role as timid Skid Row orphan Seymour, given his knack for nailing comedic roles. Waller excels at meandering through his character’s meek origin turned harrowing opportunist in order to secure the heart of his beloved Audrey (Martha Wilkinson).

Despite the fact that Wilkinson is technically too old to play Audrey, she does a fine job as the mousy blond, giving the show several comedic moments and great musical numbers. Regardless of the age variance, she certainly infuses a bountiful amount of energy to the stage.

Derek Whitaker, as well, serves his character — crotchety, manipulative Mr. Mushnik — with ease, and Bob Wyckoff as the sadistic dentist Orin deftly makes his role one you love to hate. His accidental gassing is funny, and given Orin’s nasty demeanor, the audience really doesn’t mind he is the first human to become plant food.

Local stage veteran Bakari King lends his voice to Audrey II in fine style, and kudos to Pete Carden who brings the plant to life physically by manipulating the ever-growing monstrosity.

Little Shop of Horrors is a great production on many levels, first and foremost it’s simply a fun, silly show, dark and twisted along the way.

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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