‘Little Shop’ offers full bag of treats
ASPEN Paige Price, the new artistic director of Theatre Aspen, says her aim is to make the organizations productions must-see events in Aspen, on a par with, say, David Zinman conducting the Aspen Festival Orchestra at the Aspen Music Festival, or Widespread Panic playing Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival.Price is off to an extremely good start in her mission. Theatre Aspens summer season, the first with Price heading the organization, opened this past week with an exuberant production of Little Shop of Horrors. The only thing that might prevent this from being a must-see is the sense of familiarity: Aspen Community Theatre did its own version a decade ago at the Wheeler Opera House; a school production was staged in Basalt a few years ago. And the most recent film version, while a modest hit dating back 22 years, still seems to register in the public consciousness.Focusing on just what took place in the Theatre Aspen Tent on Monday night, however, its hard to find fault, either with the quality of the production or the choice of material. The mix of horror and comedy in Howard Ashman and Alan Menkens story of a diabolical plant and the nerd who nurtured her hasnt grown at all moldy. Despite the early 60s setting, with touches of doo-wop, cardigan sweaters and motorcycle thugs, the story is not overwhelmed with nostalgia. Instead, the overall mix the seedy Skid Row locale; the mock-horror tone; even the unobtrusive bits of satire feels sharp, timeless, even sophisticated. And the songs the witty Grow For Me, the finger-popping Skid Row, the menacing Feed Me are everything you could ask for in a musical. The highlight of the show is the winkingly sentimental ode to 50s suburbia, Somewhere Thats Green: Theres plastic on the furniture to keep it neat and clean/In the Pine Sol-scented air, somewhere thats green. Kate Fahrner, in the role of the trashy, meek, sweet-hearted Audrey, delivers the song in a way that emphasizes both its Johnson-era innocence and the laughable modesty of its dream.Theres not a member of the cast who needs to be pruned from the production. Jamie LaVerdiere is strong as Seymour, the nebbish whose ride to fame and romance on the back of a power-hungry plant is filled with trepidation. The trio of girl singers (Anastacia McCleskey, Felicia Boswell, Adrienne Warren) fill the theater with sass and sound. And the local talent acquits itself admirably: Tom Erickson, late of Aspens Crystal Palace dinner theater, plays a variety of roles (sadistic, nitrous-huffing dentist; silent bag-lady on the street) to the hilt. Longtime Aspen rocker Bobby Mason gives the plant, Audrey II, the big, bad-ass voice it needs.Director Mark Martino is to be credited for somehow finding room for all the action, and the ever-growing Audrey II, without ever letting the space feel cramped. In fact, the production seems to strive for size in the voices, personalities and choreography.The lone problem in the production is one that seems almost impossible to overcome. Act two cant hold candle to act one. Sure, act two has blood and guts and plot resolution but act one gets almost all of the best songs, and gore doesnt stand a chance against a great song.Must-see theater? Lets put it this way: I cant wait to see it again.
Theatre Aspens production of Little Shop of Horrors shows this week on Saturday, July 5; Monday, July 7; and Saturday, July 12, at the Theatre Aspen Tent. It shows in rotating repertory through Aug. 16.Also, Theatre Aspens production of the comedy Rounding Third opens Thursday, July 10; and the family production Seussical opens Friday, July 11. The seasons final production, the drama Crimes of the Heart, opens July firstname.lastname@example.org
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