The man-eating plant is in on the joke in WaterTower Theatre's production of the musical comedy Little Shop of Horrors. Everyone else onstage, however, seems to think they're doing Threepenny Opera.
This stage adaptation of a famously bad 1950s fright flick has a catchy doo-wop score and the amusing visuals of an alien potted plant growing scene by scene until it's big enough to start swallowing cast members. Its owner, Skid Row's nebbish Seymour (played by Jason Kennedy), uses the plant to win the love of his flower shop co-worker, a victimized vixen named Audrey (Mary Gilbreath Grim). Her boyfriend, a sadistic dentist (Alex Organ), is the plant's first human snack.
So what happened to the funny in this show? Why is most of the WaterTower cast taking it all so seriously?
The staging, directed by Amy Anders Corcoran, looks wrong from the start. It takes place on a gigantic slice of Skid Row (the set is a behemoth with moving walls), where a trio of singers (led by the dynamic Traci Lee) hangs out like a girl-group Greek chorus providing back-up for anyone who breaks into song. You can tell the director and her designers don't get the tone of the show by how they've dressed these ladies. Long plaid skirts and shapeless blouses? Cardigans? Flats? These aren't convent novitiates; they're supposed to have some trash and flash. Where are the skintight Capri pants and high heels?
Audrey's too-chic wardrobe is face-smackingly off-kilter, too, with a black cocktail dress that says Park Avenue more than Skid Row. (Costumes are by Aaron Patrick Turner, who usually has a better eye for details.) Seymour's dressed in tasteful gray slacks and a nice sweater vest. (Kennedy's really too handsome to play this role, which is usually assigned to someone with more of a nerdesque vibe.)
It all just feels ... wrong. And heavy. And serious.
Except for Audrey II, the hungry flytrap puppeteered by Kevin Moore, with a singing voice provided by Joseph Holt. The plant seems to get a bigger smirk on its lips as the show progresses. Maybe it knows something its co-stars don't.
Little Shop of Horrors continues through August 21 at WaterTower Theatre, Addison. For tickets, 972-450-6232 or watertowertheatre.org.
July 22-31; Wednesdays-Sundays. Starts: July 22. Continues through Aug. 21, 2011