Bristol Riverside Theatre's production of Little Shop of Horrors is affectionate and fun, and you and I both know why. No, the show doesn't have any of its contemporaries' trademarks: not Sondheim's sophisticated lyricism, Webber's puffed-up self-importance, Kander and Ebb's slickness, or Ahrens and Flaherty's jaunty appeal. Nonetheless, it's a closet favorite in the hearts of several recent generations of musical-theater lovers.
Maybe you first saw or performed it onstage as a kid, watched the Frank Oz-directed film featuring Rick Moranis and Steve Martin, or caught the Roger Corman original and spotted a young Jack Nicholson. Either way, both Audreys - blond and human, or green and whatever you want to call a bloodthirsty carnivorous plant with designs on world domination - no doubt left an impression. And Susan Atkinson's direction of this Howard Ashman/Alan Menken evergreen handles your memories with care (and will hook first-timers exactly the way it probably hooked you).
With a delightful cast - particularly Laura Giknis, whose ditsy, wounded Audrey hides a tightly controlled vocal command - and a game girl-group trio of Chiffon (Lindsey Warren), Crystal (Candace Thomas), and Ronnette (Berlando Drake, who earned her doo-wop skills honestly as one of Ray Charles' Raelettes), Menken's old-school tunes get a breath of fresh air. The boys aren't bad, either. Andrew McMath's dorky Seymour; Daniel Marcus' rotund, abrasive, Skid Row flower-shop owner Mushnik; Danny Vaccaro's greaser dentist Orin; and Carl Clemons-Hopkins' baritone Audrey II hold their own, if they don't quite match their counterparts' shimmer.
That shimmer is enhanced mightily by Linda B. Stockton's costumes, which range from slinky green sequin cocktail dresses for the gals to form-fitting shifts with a variety of leopard accents for Audrey. Jason Simms sets Mushnik's flower shop between tall tenements and on a turntable, revolving to reveal its exterior and interior, Audrey II expanding at each turn.
It bears mentioning that with everyone and the orchestra miked, singers compete with musicians and don't always win. And Audrey II, with a mouth that's just the right size to fit a human or three, could use one more growth spurt and a bit more mobility. But does any of that really matter once she starts howling, "Feed me"? No way. Bristol knows why audiences keep hungering for this show, and it gives us all we need to stoke that appetite.
Little Shop of Horrors
Through June 8 at Bristol Riverside Theatre, 120 Radcliffe St., Bristol.
Tickets: $15-$55. Information: 215-785-0100 or www.brtstage.org.EndText