Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes”, presented by Lyric Stage. Bravo to the Lyric for taking on Lillian Hellman, who doesn’t get produced enough anymore. And what a taking on it was. From Janie E. Howland’s set design to Gail Astrid Buckley’s costumes to the first-rate ensemble acting of this excellent cast, “The Little Foxes” was one of the more engrossing shows of 2019. High stakes and hidden motives were well played by all, but I have to give a special shoutout to Anne Gottlieb, who somehow managed to make me empathize a bit with her, despite some heinous behavior.
Lyric Stages’ “Little Shop of Horrors” – This one may not have the emotional weight of the other musical favorites on the list, but it was easily the most fun musical of the year on a mid-size stage (“Six” was a blast over at the A.R.T. too). Rachel Bertone and her creative team worked their magic again in the intimate setting of the Lyric, accentuating thecomic ingenuity of this underrated musical and making the most of its rockin’ score, much of which is delivered/augmented by the dynamite “Greek chorus” girl group featuring Crystal (Lovely Hoffman), Ronnette (Carla Martinez), and Chiffon (Pier Lamia Porter).Katrina Z Pavao killed in the role of Audrey, both comically and vocally, in what one hopes is a breakthrough role.
Lyric Stage’s“TheLittle Foxes” – Most years, there is at least one production of a play or musical that feels more like a theatrical achievement than simple entertainment, and in 2019 it was the Lyric Stage’s masterful staging of the Lillian Hellman classic. Superbly directed by Scott Edmiston, with a beautifully detailed set by Jane E. Howland in the intimate space of the Lyric, this portrait of a wealthy but soulless Southern family was a stunning reminder of the effect that the pursuit of money and power has on ethics and morals. The entire cast was exceptional, and nine months later I can still see and feel the horrifying demoralization experienced by Birdie, the alcoholic sister-in-law played so despairingly well by Amelia Broome. It may well have been the year’s best supporting performance – on any stage.
In September, just a few months after Katrina Z Pavao received her MFA from Boston Conservatory at Berklee, she stole the show as flower-shop clerk Audrey in “Little Shop of Horrors’’ at Lyric Stage Company of Boston. The poignantly yearning quality Pavao, 25, brought to the character culminated in her heart-piercing, you-could-hear-a-pin-drop rendition of “Somewhere That’s Green.’’
Best production of this delightfully fun show that I have experienced in my 33 year reviewing career! The Lyric Stage Company at 140 Clarendon St. in Boston presents this award-winning sci-fi pulp musical on its award-winning, popular and intimate stage. The musical is also currently enjoying a successful off-Broadway revival in NYC. With an upbeat score composed by Alan Menken and a Book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, this production has been inoticebly directed and choreographed with many delightfully clever and extraordinarily perfect details by IRNE Award-winner Rachel Bertone.
The quirky story takes place in a failing flower shop in a run-down, “skid row” neighborhood in NY City. Four time IRNE and four time Norton Award-winner, Scenic Designer, Janie E. Howland*, thrusts the audience into the center of the sad, little shop that is situated in the slums.
The tale opens with the timid, clumsy, and overtly submissive Seymour Krelborn played by Dan Prior. Seymour, who was taken from an orphanage and has been brow-beaten to work for the abusive and greedy Mr. Mushnik (Remo Airaldi), the owner of the shop. Seyomour has always had a fascination for propagating strange plants. He also harbors a secret crush for his coworker Audrey (Katrina Z. Pavao), a simple, sweet and kind girl who is under the influence of her sadistic, physically and verbally abusive, motorcycle-riding, psycho dentist boyfriend, Orin (Jeff Marcus). During a mysterious total eclipse of the sun, Seymour acquires a rare and very strange plant that resembles a super-sized Venus Fly Trap.
But the plant, affectionately named, Audrey II, is struggling to survive until Seymour accidentally pricks his finger on a thorn and the plant responds to his blood. Throughout the show, Audrey II’s growth becomes insanely rapid and highly animated…which is cleverly achieved through the creative puppetry of Cameron McEachmen The unusual plant, revived by Seymour’s blood is placed in the shop’s window where its sudden notoriety results in unprecedented success for the business. But unbeknownst to everyone, this mysterious, and as we learn, conniving and voraciously carnivorous plant begins to speak. It goads Seymour into satisfying its blood thirsty needs by promising to fulfill Seymour’s every wish. The seductive, off-stage lyrical vocals for Audrey II are supplied by the IRNE Award-winning Yewande Odetoyinbo.
For the flawless cast selection, Dan Prior as Seymour and Katrina Z. Pavao as Audrey provide perfect vocals and gentle chemistry to their roles. From the fine-tuned, tonal harmonies of the mega talented trio chorus, consisting of the award-winning Lovely Hoffman”, Carla Matinez* and Pier Lamia Porter* to the, always show pleasing and hugely funny antics of long time Boston favorite Remo Airaldi (Mr. Mushnik), as well as to Jeff Marcus*’, who one would swear had studied Steve Martin’s movie role as Orin, the nitrous oxide-addicted dentist and Audrey’s violently abusive boyfriend, the musical is wonderful. Jeff also enchanted the audience with his multiple other roles during the production. The orchestra and music direction were all attained, behind the scenery and were under the keyboard and baton of the IRNE Award-winning Dan Rodriguez. I must add that when one sees the names of Bertone and Rodriguez, together on the Playbill, you can be assured that the show will be stellar. The NY Times stated that Little Shop of Horrors was, “A show for horticulturists, horror-cultists, sci-fi fans, and anyone with a taste for the outrageous.” Tickets for this incredibly entertaining and engaging classic musical may be purchased at www.lyricstage.com
We chatted with Cameron McEachern, the Puppet Designer for Little Shop of Horrors about Little Shop revivals, his design process, and experience with puppet-making.
Little Shop Plant Thoughts:
This has always been one of my favorite shows. Great story, great music and the fun-factor of a man-eating plant. The only usual downside is that most companies do not build their own plants, but rather rely on rentals. So it’s very exciting that Lyric is producing the show with brand new, never before seen puppets. I’ve always believed that the charm of the plants is that they ARE a foam rubber monster, like the b-movie creatures that they are referencing. There’s no getting around the fact that this is a puppet show … but somehow the over the top text of the show combined with well-made puppets makes it work.
We are building our plants utilizing the blueprints for the original off-broadway puppets designed by Martin P. Robinson who, fun fact, is Mr. Snuffleupagus and Telly Monster on Sesame Street. While we are staying true to the original shape and structure of the pods, I have chosen to use a color palette that is more natural and plant-like rather than the brightly colored rainbow puppets that are commonly used. While designing the plants, I worked hard to not only convey growth in size but also show the evolution of the plants from cute baby pod to giant monster. She starts off a pale yellow but as the show progresses and she is fed more and more, her pod becomes greener and greener. As she grows, she develops roots, thorns, warts, and vines. The taper of her lips and snout become more pronounced and menacing.
My Background / Experience with puppets:
To be honest, I don’t have a huge amount of experience with puppets. I have had the opportunity to create puppets for shows in the past, but the majority of the work I do is as a scenic artist with a little prop fabrication thrown in there. What I have really enjoyed about this project is the wide range of skills I have been able to utilize while creating the plants … Paper mache, foam sculpture, sewing / patterning, painting / airbrushing and even a little carpentry… There is a lot more that goes into puppet building than meets the eye.
This award-winning sci-fi pulp musical about nebbishy Seymour who haplessly pines after his coworker Audrey. Suddenly, opportunity falls into his lap in the form of a mysterious, carnivorous, conniving – not to mention singing – plant that promises to fulfill Seymour’s every wish.
“A show for horticulturists, horror-cultists, sci-fi fans, and anyone with a taste for the outrageous.” – NY Times
About Cameron McEachern
Cameron McEachern (Puppet Design) is a Boston-based scenic artist, designer, prop fabricator, and costumer making his Lyric Stage debut. As a freelance artist, he has been fortunate to work with companies including the American Repertory Theater, Moonbox Productions, Reagle Music Theatre, North Shore Music Theatre, The Company Theatre, and New England Scenic. He is also the paint charge for Wicked Amusements – an escape room and interactive amusement design company.