By Michael Kuchwara
New York (AP) -- The new Broadway season has suffered its first casualty -- even before the show opened. "Little Shop of Horrors" has canceled its summer Broadway engagement.
An $8 million revival of what was one of off-Broadway's biggest hits had been scheduled to begin preview performances July 16 at the Virginia Theatre where the marquee for the musical already is up. An opening had been set for Aug. 14.
"The magic, the chemistry just wasn't there for this production," producer Marc Routh said Monday, although he declined to get into specifics about the show, which was directed by Connie Grappo and has choreography by Kathleen Marshall.
"We just have very high standards for this material," Routh said. "It's a challenge to translate an off-Broadway show and make it into a successful Broadway show. We've seen that fail with `One Mo' Time' a couple years ago."
"Little Shop," based on the cult 1960 Roger Corman movie about a man-eating plant, ends an engagement June 15 in Coral Gables, Fla., where the show received qualified approval from the local critics.
Christine Dolan, writing in The Miami Herald, praised the show's two stars, Hunter Foster and Alice Ripley, but speculated, "How Broadway audiences and critics ... will take to the now-familiar 'Little Shop' is anyone's guess."
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Jack Zink wrote, "The hippest creature feature of all, 'Little Shop of Horrors,' lumbered onto the Miracle Theatre stage last week, its jive-talkin' botanical bully fattened to nearly-Godzilla proportions. The extra weight is uncomfortable and clumsy for now, but the show will be on its feet and limbered up soon enough."
Ripley, late of "Side Show," plays the musical's beleaguered heroine in the Coral Gables production, and Foster, who appeared in "Urinetown," portrays its mild-mannered hero, Seymour, who breeds the leafy yet carnivorous Audrey II. The beastly plant was created for this production by the Jim Henson Company of "Muppets" fame.
Routh did hold open the possibility of a new production, directed by Jerry Zaks, that could arrive on Broadway in the fall. He said Zaks, who directed such hits as the Nathan Lane revival of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and "Smokey Joe's Cafe," had gone down to Florida to see the musical, which was written by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken.
"We don't know what elements from this production might or might not be in the next one," Routh said. "If things work out, Jerry will be at the helm. At the moment, we still haven't come to an agreement with him, although he has expressed a strong desire to do it."
The original off-Broadway "Little Shop of Horrors" opened in July 1982 and ran for more than five years at the Orpheum Theatre on the Lower East Side. It was directed by Ashman and starred Ellen Greene and Lee Wilkof, who appears in the Florida production.
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