Horticulture runs hilariously wild on the stage of Little Rock's Arkansas Repertory Theatre, where the production of "Little Shop of Horrors" is absolutely terrific.
The first collaboration between composer Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who wrote the book and lyrics based on Roger Corman's 1960 cult film, focuses on two love stories:
Between nebbishy florist's assistant Seymour Krelborn (superbly and confidently played by Greg Laucella) and his fellow employee at Mushnik's Skid Row Florist, esteem-challenged Audrey (Tara Tagliaferro treating her character with plenty of respect -- not as the usual dingbat).
And between Seymour and the strange, unusual and, as it turns out, nastily carnivorous plant he discovers (and names "Audrey II") during a total eclipse of the sun.
Audrey II usually represents a collaboration between a team of puppeteers that make the plant move and an actor who provides the voice. Here, David LaMarr entirely enacts the plant, which, in a truly strange and unusual approach in this production (and not to give too much away), is not exactly rooted to its pot. (Think putting Glinda the Good Witch into "Kinky Boots" and you'll start to get the picture.)
Superb support comes from Joey Calveri as sadistic and swivel-hipped dentist Orin Scrivello (and a host of secondary characters), Buzz Roddy as Mushnik and, as the Greek-chorus Urchins, Alexis Richelle as Chiffon, Brianna East as Ronette and Claire Foessey as Crystal.
Director/choreographer Stephanie Klemons brings her urban choreography background, honed through working on several shows with Lin-Manuel Miranda, into play, particularly with the Urchins; the "Mushnik & Son" tango is a joy to behold. Kate Field's slightly foggy Skid Row set is a marvel; the background pawn shop hides the excellent five-piece band.
"Little Shop" is onstage through April 30 at the Rep, 601 Main St. The theater has rated it PG-13 for adult situations and violence. For ticket information, call (501) 378-0405 or visit TheRep.org.