It seems only fitting that, for his latest burst of holiday havoc, Ryan Landry has drawn inspiration from “The Little Shop of Horrors,” the 1960 cult film by B-movie king Roger Corman.
Landry has always brought a B-movie sensibility to his stage work, exploiting the possibilities of a genre where the usual rules don’t apply. He creates his own mad universe — where nothing, and I mean nothing, is sacred — and asks you to live in it for a couple of hours.
It’s an invitation worth accepting when it comes to the cheerfully deranged “Little Christmas Tree Shop of Horrors.”
Kiki Samko is at the helm as director again, and proves again that she and Landry are on the same creative wavelength when it comes to his singular brand of musical comedy, in which he marries new, frequently naughty lyrics to familiar pop songs and musical-theater classics.
As ever in any production by Landry and his Gold Dust Orphans, “Little Christmas Tree Shop of Horrors" has the feel of a raucous family gathering, the auteur and his merry band having built up an extremely loyal and fervent following over the years.
As ever, the jokes, puns, and double-entendres of Landry’s script and lyrics are hit-or-miss. As ever, Landry and his troupe manage to blur the distinction between hit and miss, their overriding goal being, simply, fun.
His guiding principle is “Anything for a laugh,” and “Little Christmas Tree Shop of Horrors” has a goodly share of those. (In press materials, Landry says defiantly: “We are clowns and proud to be so.”) The show is bolstered by rousing dance numbers, choreographed by Briana Scafidi, and exuberantly performed by the cast.
In one sense, “Little Christmas Tree Shop of Horrors” is a departure for Landry. His usual approach is to craft parodies of films, stage musicals, or plays that were not inherently comic until he got his irreverent hands on them, with titles that have included “Phantom of the Oprah,” “Mildred Fierce,” “Brokelahomo,” and “It’s a Horrible Life.”
It was a kick watching Landry and the Orphans explode the solemnity or sentimentality of those works. Given the comic underpinnings of the original “Little Shop” and of the 1982 musical adaptation of the film by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, Landry and Samko have compensated by dialing the Yuletide mayhem up to 11.
“Little Christmas Tree Shop of Horrors” takes place in a Dollar Store in Revere presided over by that green-skinned mistress of malice Hermione P. Grinchley, played as always with fiendish glee by Landry himself.
Grinchley’s nerdy, bow-tied, sweater-vest-wearing clerk, Norbert (the endearing Tim Lawton), is looking for a way to impress the fair Tawdry (a very good Taryn Lane). When he finds a small, innocent-seeming Christmas tree, he brings it to the store and names it Horace.
Pretty soon, Horace is neither small nor innocent, its carnivorous appetite having been unleashed in pursuit of human blood. (Horace’s voice is supplied by Tad McKitterick, and Joey Pelletier is the performer inside the tree puppet. Pelletier also plays, with great gusto, a milkman clad only in a jockstrap.)
Norbert faces an ethical dilemma: Should he stop the arboreal murderer, although it will mean surrendering the media attention it’s brought him?
Meanwhile, Norbert is growing increasingly close to Tawdry, whose dream is to “move to a trailer out in Lynn,” though their love is shadowed by Tawdry’s menacing lover, Barb (Gina Carmela), the manager of a Dunkin’ Donuts. All the while, the Revere Sisters, a girl group/Greek chorus portrayed by Lizette Marie Morris, Tori Dowd, and McKitterick, are weighing in with observations and opinions in song.
“Little Christmas Tree Shop of Horrors” doesn’t let story logic get in the way. For example, one musical number features dancers attired as medieval knights because … just because.
In an amusing interlude, “Boston Public Radio” hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan make an appearance in puppet form. (Their dialogue was pre-recorded.) Puppet Braude displays the same unstoppable volubility as real-life Braude. When asked a question, Eagan replies: “I don’t know what to say. I’ve never been able to finish a sentence before.”
The puppets are designed by Scott Martino. The set and costumes were designed by Martino in collaboration with Landry. Martino’s wizardry with costume creation on what one assumes is a bare-bones budget never fails to impress, but this year he has outdone himself. Neither he nor Landry seems be running low on creativity, and that’s not a bad Christmas present in itself.
LITTLE CHRISTMAS TREE SHOP OF HORRORS
Written by Ryan Landry. Directed by Kiki Samko. Choreography by Briana Scafidi. Sets and costumes by Scott Martino in collaboration with Landry. Presented by Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans. At Iron Wolf Theatre, South Boston Lithuanian Citizens Association, South Boston. Through Dec. 23. Tickets $59.99-$100. https://littlexmastreeshop.bpt.me