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Cultural Park cleared to perform final three shows of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’


There’s no feeling for a cast and crew more crushing than a bad review or the shows abrupt cancellation due to COVID-19. Just ask the cast and crew of The Full Monty or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night. The former had one weekend left and the latter had just opened at New Phoenix and Player’s Circle Theatres respectively when when everything shut down last March.

And The Sound of Music over at Broadway Palm suffered the same fate a few months later.

Cultural Park Theatre, of course, has suffered its share of theater-interruptus as well. CPT lost the final weekend of The Importance of Being Earnest and had to postpone the final weekend of Little Shop of Horrors too. Well, sometimes you get a second chance, and so it is with Little Shop. CPT has received the go-ahead to perform the musical’s final three shows, which will take place this Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., with a closing matinee on Sunday.

And that’s terrific news not just for the cast and crew. It’s an outstanding development for all those who had tickets … and those of you yet to purchase yours.

The show contains all of the delectable elements audiences relish in a musical – delicious song and dance numbers, great actors and marvelous costumes and sets. The music is by Alan Menken, with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, a duo that went on to collaborate on shows such as Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

But there’s more to Little Shop of Horrors. For as entertaining as Little Shop is, the show is actually a pretty damn good allegory. On a psychological plane, the musical can be viewed as a warning that when we give in to our baser instincts, dire consequences are likely to follow. Small or modest compromises of ethics and honesty lead invariably to larger, even wholesale ethical sacrifices until no moral code remains and life becomes totally transactional. [In a 2012 essay for, reviewer Noah Washburn postulates that Audrey II represents Freud’s id, Audrey the aspirational, perfection-seeking Superego and Seymour the mediating ego.]

That said, Little Shop may be better understood in the rich tradition of science fiction as an examination of the threat posed to mankind’s survival by scientific discovery gone awry.

Last summer we observed the 75th anniversary of the detonation of the first atom bomb and mankind’s entry into the nuclear age. In a profound sense, Seymour represents the father of the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer.

As he witnessed the blast that fateful morning, Oppenheimer mentally recited a line form the Bhagavad-Gita, vis: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” Without going into a lengthy dissertation, what Oppenheimer meant was that his duty to develop and create the bomb (Audrey II) pre-empted any concern for his creation’s ability to kill or even cause mankind’s complete and utter destruction.

Oppenheimer knew that his creation would be unleashed on Japanese citizens, but justified their deaths by the American lives saved as a consequence of the early end of the war in the Pacific Theater and obviating the necessity for a land invasion of Japan.

“If you wanna be profound/if you really gotta justify,” sings Audrey II. “Take a breath and look around/ A lotta folks deserve to die!”

But even if that short-term trade off seemed right and proper at the time, the seeds of nuclear Armageddon had been planted. Just as Audrey II devours Seymour and all he loved in the end, nuclear fission has the power to annihilate the world and every living thing in it. And that makes the “Finale Ultimo (Don’t Feed the Plant)” all the more poignant and meaningful.

If the simile of atomic power and nuclear destruction seems forced because of a lack of profit motive, then perhaps fossil fuel and extinction of species due to melting icecaps, rising tides, million-acre wildfires and Cat 5 cyclones may be more appropriate. Or the creation and dissemination of superbugs like COVID-19. There is no dearth of applicable examples. The point is that there’s nothing little in the message underlying all the fun, singing and dancing and lighthearted caricatures that Alan Menken and Howard Ashman have built into the storyline, characters , dialogue and lyrics of their timeless little musical.

So bravo to everyone involved in this devious Broadway and Hollywood sci-fi smash musical which has devoured the hearts of theater-goers for more than three decades. The show not only must go on. It will go on. The only question is whether you’ll be part of it as well.

January 23, 2021.

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