Sunday, August 27, 2017

Little Shop of Horrors and Shot Glass Nickel

Denise and I just had a pretty solid weekend of entertainment. On Saturday night, we saw Little Shop of Horrors at The Gateway Playhouse in Bellport. Then, on Sunday afternoon, we took a drive out east to catch my sister-in-law's band, Shot Glass Nickel at PORT Waterfront Bar and Grill in Greenport.

Usually, I treat my daughter to at least one show over the summer at The Gateway, and this year, the one she picked was Little Shop of Horrors. We made it a double date, my wife and I attending with my daughter and her boyfriend.

I'll be honest, this wouldn't have been my first pick. I don't hate LSoH as a show, but I don't love it either. It's a very campy musical comedy, and camp has never been my thing. For anyone not familiar, LSoH is based on a 1969 Roger Corman black-comedy film that featured a very young Jack Nicholson.

The show definitely has its moments. I'd say it has 3-1/2 strong songs, these being "Somewhere That's Green", sung by the female lead, Audrey, "To Be a Dentist", sung by her abusive sadist boyfriend, Orin, "Suddenly Seymour", sung by Audrey and the lead character, Seymour, and "Suppertime", sung by the killer plant, Audrey II (this last one being the "1/2"). If you've seen the movie, starring Rick Moranis, the play has a few differences, including a completely different ending (which I won't spoil for you), and the absence of the Arthur Denton character, a masochist who visits the Orin the dentist character because he loves being hurt. (These two characters were memorably portrayed by Bill Murray and Steve Martin in the film). It's a short show -- this rendition started at 8:30 PM, and we were in our car by 10:30. And there's a 20-minute-or-so intermission between acts.

So it's a show that can hit or miss, depending on the cast. And happily for the Gateway, the cast for this show is a total winner. Jeremy Greenbaum, who I saw earlier in the season in Rent, once again does a superb job here in the character of Seymour. Having seen this guy twice now, first in a dramatic role and this time in a comedy, I have to say he's a terrific and versatile musical-theater actor. He's had starring roles Off-Broadway, and non-starring roles on Broadway, and it's not at all difficult to picture him taking the next step up and starring in a Broadway role in the near future.

I don't really love the Audrey character. The way it's supposed to be played, with a bleach-blonde wig and a Judy Holliday accent, is kind of annoying, and her relationship with the woman-beating Orin is a little disturbing. But having said that, Crystal Kellogg gets the most out of the part, and demonstrates a beautiful, powerful voice in the process.

John Rochette takes a completely different tack on the Orin character than Steve Martin did in the film, but it's equally successful. His giggling, nitrous-oxide sucking portrayal of the bullying greaser dentist comes close at times to stealing the show. He also plays a variety of over-the-top minor characters, at times leaving the stage on one side only to emerge from the other in a completely different (and equally outrageous) role.

The other actors in the small cast, Trent Armand Kendall as the voice of Audrey II, Ray DeMattis as Mr. Mushnik, and Courtney Daniels, Moeisha McGill and Jerusha Cavazos as the girl group-like street urchins, are also very good. And although there's no bio for them in the playbill, I'm going to guess that young Alexandra Meli and William Russell as the Plant Roots of the fully-grown Audrey II, come from The Gateway's own school for young performers.

To summarize, LSoH is a mediocre show raised to the level of a good show thanks to the efforts of a hard-working and likable cast. This is The Gateway's last show of the 2017 season. It runs until September 9. So this season, I saw Rent at my wife's behest and Little Shop of Horrors at my daughter's behest. I kind of wish, in retrospect, I had caught Mama Mia!, but you can't see everything.

A couple of shows are coming up on Long Island over the next couple of months that I have my eye on: Man of La Mancha (one of my favorite shows) at the Smithtown Performing Arts Center (SPAC), running from September 9 through October 22, and Jekyl & Hyde (which I've never seen) at the CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale, running from October 14 through November 4. And if I really want to catch Mama Mia!, I see that it's playing at SPAC in March. Meanwhile, hopefully next summer, The Gateway will take my advice and finally put together a production of Chess!


As I mentioned earlier, Denise and I saw my sister-in-law Allison's band Shot Glass Nickel at PORT in Greenport.

PORT is a nice place. It features music in an outdoor setting (although I'm sure you can hear the band just fine indoors, too). It sits across the street from the Shelter Island Ferry Station, and down the block from the Greenport Long Island Railroad station. I can testify that their burgers are really good. I seldom drink, so I can't tell you much about their beers, wines, etc. Everybody there looked pretty happy, though, so I'm guessing they're just fine.

This is the first time I saw Allison with Shot Glass Nickel. She sang for many years in a wedding band, Afterglow (in fact, they played our wedding), and she sang jazz for many years. But it's been a while since I saw her rock, and she can still do it with the best of them.

Shot Glass Nickel is a smoking hot band that plays classic rock covers, mostly from the '70s. Today, they played a copious amount of Zeppelin, Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn, with some Ozzie, Pink Floyd, Rush, Aerosmith and even Humble Pie, thrown in for good measure. And just for the hell of it, they even jumped forward to the '90s for some Soundgarden. Plus, Allison being Allison, she'll always find a way to throw in at least one song from her favorite band ever, Queen. I'm prejudiced, I admit, but the band had fans from as far as Williston Park who made the drive out east to see them, and there was a lot of dancing and general merrymaking going on throughout their 3-hour set. So if '70s hard rock is your pleasure, you'll definitely enjoy this band.


Since I mentioned Ozzy, I'll close on this: One of my kids showed me a cartoon this week. It featured a bat tucking his young son in for the night, and reassuring him, "Don't worry, you're safe. I promise Ozzy isn't under your bed."