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There aren’t that many notable horror musicals, and some of them are, well, horrible. Adapted from Roger Corman’s comical creepy cheapie from 1960, Little Shop of Horrors is the green standard among them, which propelled the tunesmith team of Alan Menken (music) and Howard Ashman (book and lyrics) from the show’s down-and-out Skid Row to greater glory at Disney (without their hummable contributions to The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin there woud have been no animated musical renaissance). It was however a bit wilted at the movies (the starry 1986 film version retained its beating heart, the wistful Ellen Greene, yet made too fancy a floral arrangement from the material) and no matter how big he got Audrey II, the horror himself, couldn’t quite fill the house in the show’s Broadway debut in 2003.
Happily the show is back where it belongs, and seeing it in the cozy Westside Theatre took me back to its Off Broadway engagement at the Orpheum, in the early 80s. I vividly recall Audrey II’s tendrils descending upon me and my family as the show ended, a funny, William Castle-like shock effect for the ages. We were however hooked from the outset, from the doo wop rhythm of the “Greek chorus” prologue (few musicals get off to a faster start) to highlights like “Skid Row,” “Suddenly, Seymour” and Greene’s “I Want” haymaker, the plaintive “Somewhere That’s Green.” Backing up a classic lineup of songs was Ashman’s book, which amplifies both the grisly comedy and Faustian tragedy of the material, as Seymour, a nebbishy floral assistant, cultivates a lethal plant of unknown origin that requires blood to survive, and thrive into local celebrity. Love is also in bloom, as Seymour swoons for his colleague, the woebegone but ever-hopeful Audrey…but her namesake ensures there’s no bed of roses awaiting the would-be lovers. “Feed me, Seymour…!”
Director Michael Mayer has laid out a feast, with scenic designer Julian Crouch replicating Skid Row in all its tacky glory (the “urchin” ladies who narrate in song are all outfitted with Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines, a touch I never get too old for) and Nicholas Mahon and Monkey Boy Productions handling the delightful puppetry (performer Kingsley Leggs sells the illusion with his powerhouse vocals). The only miscalculation is Jessica Paz’s overemphatic sound design, which tends to swallow the lyrics in the small space.
Little Shop doesn’t require star presences but this production has them, and they are for the most part effectively deployed. Taking a break from the angst-ridden detection of Netflix’s Mindhunter two-time Tony nominee Jonathan Groff is a winning Seymour, a good foil for his avaricious boss Mushnik (Tom Alan Robbins) and in strong voice. To Kill a Mockingbird co-star Gideon Glick, who will replace him for a couple of weeks, is a more natural nebbish, but online criticism of the handsome Groff not being hapless enough for the role is odd; it’s called “acting,” and he acts the pratfalling short-faller as well as, say, Ryan O’Neal in What’s Up, Doc? Why Tammy Blanchard hasn’t taken her Emmy-winning portrayal of Judy Garland on the road stumps me (she’s continued to age into the very likeness) but that does offer an interesting visual and vocal contrast to Greene. Jokes about Audrey’s abuse at the hands of her boyfriend will for some be on the verge of cultural cancellation; still, she invests the character with ample quantities of frazzled sympathy and warmth.
Two-time Tony winner Christian Borle earns his stripes as the abusive biker dentist Orin, but showboats too much in other smaller roles. Little Shop of Horrors doesn’t need an Audrey III, IV, or V. The two leads and/or Audrey II taking center stage, putting across those terrific songs, is all the conspicuous consumption this production needs.
Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode One Hundred Twenty Five
On this edition of Radio City…, the boys take to task New York City “mayor in absentia”, Bill deBlasio and his Board of Education chief, Richard Carranza, as those two “public servants” take identity politics to a new low: eliminating gifted programs in New York City public schools. At the same time, deBlasio is somehow convinced that with 0% traction in his Presidential bid, people will vote for him. Rob discusses in depth a troubling, ongoing situation in his neighborhood: residents are vocal about not wanting a fait-accompli homeless shelter, but former N.Y.C. council speaker Christine Quinn had the audacity to pen a letter to the editor of the Staten Island Advance (the local paper), saying it would “help the area”, which is a bold-faced lie. Meanwhile, right-wingnut Tomi Lahren’s patriotic yoga pants – with an American flag motif, made in China and a pocket to carry a gun just heaps more embarrassment on us all; does anyone really care about who said or did what at the MTV VMA’s? The channel doesn’t even show “music” videos anymore; measles had been eliminated in 2000 – anti-vaxxers are causing it to return in frightening numbers; a juicy piece on another political figure being exposed for being more than just a liar, as well as a blistering “In Our Heads” segment and even more!
Even though the way the world moves is emotionally draining, at least Jon and Rob try to take it apart with a smile and bit of thought. So join them – you’ll ultimately feel better…
Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode One Hundred Twenty Five
The podcast will be on the site as well as for subscription via iTunes and other podcast aggregators. Subscribe and let people know about Radio City, as well as Popdose’s other great podcasts David Medsker’s Dizzy Heights and In:Sound with Michael Parr and Zack Stiegler.
There’s really never been a bad time to be Richard Marx — he’s landed a #1 song on the charts (for himself and others) in each of the past four decades; he’s written and performed more hit songs than we can count; he’s married two of the most crush-worthy women to ever emerge from a magic era when MTV was “music television” — currently beloved VJ Daisy Fuentes, and for a quarter century prior, actress/dancer Cynthia Rhodes who stole a billion hearts as Toto’s “Rosanna“.
In between time in the studio, on tour, and with his kids, he tirelessly supports a wide variety of charitable causes (I met him when he recorded some teen smoking prevention PSA’s in the 90’s) and spends LOADS of time on social media (sharing stories, commenting on world events, and clearly scratching an itch for a lost career as a bankable comedian to more than 150,000 followers).
This week added a few more sparkling jewels to the crowned life of the Duke of ‘Hazard‘. He won the Internet a few days ago with a hysterical quip about fellow icon, Kenny Loggins.
And now he releases the official video for his latest single, “Another One Down”. The track is currently lighting up Adult Contemporary radio and may be from an upcoming album per his new deal with BMG.
Popdose is proud to present the world premiere of the track’s official video, a clip that finds Marx doing what Cher wished she could have done for ages, turn back time:
Connect with Richard Marx on twitter. Revisit Popdose interviews with him from 2011 and 2014.
We bring the ‘90s UK Alternative series to an end with, in a twist, the bands that had the most success on the charts. Several acts here – if not these songs, though most of these songs fared well – hit Number One, and strangely enough, some of these songs fared better on the US charts than they did on the UK charts. Del Amitri and White Town, we’re looking in your direction.
This series was such fun to put together, and I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I enjoyed making it.
Thank you, as always, for listening.
Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode One Hundred Twenty Four
An absolute gem of an episode, Rob and Jon cover all the bases but they do so with thoughtfulness, meaning and heart.
Tonight, you can enjoy Rob talk about his evening with his Atlantic Records art department family; the final Big Star studio album, “In Space” will be re-released 10/25 by Omnivore; on Staten Island, Daniel Pantaleo is fired by the NYPD in a completely political move over the Eric Garner incident. Transparent and shameful that the NYPD Commissioner kowtowed to deBlasio and his criminal cabal including Al Sharpton and deBlasio’s skill at fomenting racial divide in New York City; what do all the ridiculous memes do when it comes to maligning Trump?; the interview with Peter Horvath of The Anderson Council up now on MusicTAP; Harris drops substantially in CNN and Quinnipiac polls, while Biden gains; baseball has suddenly gotten more interesting with the recent streaks of the Mets, Cardinals, etc. to gallop into wild card contention and the Indians, who were 11 games out of 1st place (in 2nd) to overtake the Twins and the division lead in the AL Central, plus “In Our Heads” and more!