That mean, man-eating plant called Audrey II has been repotted, and the entire show she's in,
Little Shop of Horrors
, has been transplanted. Like all plants, now that she's in new soil, Audrey II is growing a little differently.
This Little Shop opened in Norristown, and after a break the coproduction between Theater Horizon and 11th Hour Theater Company - a cross-pollination, they're calling it - has moved to Center City. It's got a new leading lady, the perky Melinda Bass, who replaced Maggie Lakis after Lakis was tapped for the Off-Broadway production of Avenue Q.
The show's character now blooms in a different way. At Norristown, Theatre Horizon's turf, it was a dark Little Shop, rich and distinctive because the musical is usually played as a cartoon. It loses some of that quality in Center City, where Bass plays her Audrey - the florist's shopgirl for whom the killer plant is named - in the more typical, exaggerated way. She's lovely in it, just different; the tone of the show is now closer to every Little Shop.
It's also a tad less intimate, in the second-floor blackbox theater at the Prince, than it was at Norristown's Centre Theater. And it now comes with an unwelcome sound bounce at the Prince that turns the cast's superb voices into tin from time to time.
But lest I whine - and be devoured by the fantastical fauna Aaron Cromie has designed - let me say that the roots of this production are healthy. Steve Pacek still makes an endearing nudnik aide in the skid-row flower shop, manipulating his character like a sad circus clown.
And what I wrote in September, when Little Shop opened in Norristown, remains so: The show's three neighborhood layabouts, Alex Keiper, Laura Giknis, and Candace Thomas, are exceptional in their perpetual smirks and songs; Paul McElwee is robust as the shop owner; Carl Clemons-Hopkins' many characters are great fun. Craig Patrick O'Brien remains the flower's puppeteer and M.K. Hines, its jazzy female voice.
And a good time will still be had by all. Just stay away from the plant.
Little Shop of Horrors
A joint production by 11th Hour Theatre Company and Theatre Horizon, at Prince Music Theater's Independence Studio, 1412 Chestnut St., through Dec. 20. Tickets: $15-$30. Information: 267-987-9865 or www. 11thhourtheatrecompany.org.