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Little Shop of Horrors Review

A Growing Concern

Address: James Dunn Theater, 835 College Ave.
Kentfield, CA 94904
Phone: 415-485-9385

Little Shop of Horrors

Vanessa Lopez as Chiffon, Tara Salinger as Ronnette, Anna Vorperian as Crystal, Michael Kessell as Seymour and Michael Peters as Mr. Mushnik, with Audrey II, the plant played by Matt Kizer (the voice) and Katherine Rupers (the puppeteer).

Review by Judith M. Wilson

Photos by Robin Jackson

 

When audiences walk out of a theater smiling, it says a lot about a play’s appeal, and such is the case with the College of Marin’s production of Little Shop of Horrors. With catchy tunes, engaging characters and an intriguing plot that mixes genres, it’s a community theatre favorite, and with Lisa Morse’s well-paced direction, COM makes the most of it, resulting in lots of happy faces.

The story starts with Mr. Mushnik, owner of Mushnik’s Skid Row Florists, lamenting the lack of business in his rundown shop. It’s a money-loser, and so he decides to close the store and let his two employees, Audrey and Seymour, go. Then Seymour reveals that he’s acquired a strange plant, which resembles a fly trap and might have the potential to draw new business. He puts it in the window, and its instant ability to attract customers convinces Mushnik to relent and keep the store open. It turns out, however, that the plant is carnivorous and has a taste for blood, which causes it to grow rapidly, creating challenges for Seymour and adding complications.

Michael Kessell plays the initially bashful Seymour, whose love for Audrey drives his actions which include naming the new plant Audrey II. His character evolves to gain some confidence, allowing him to make some unsavory decisions with what he believes are the best intentions, but success also makes him somewhat manipulative. Sophie De Morelos is the lovely but unsecure Audrey, and she’s endearing in the role. She doesn’t have big ambitions, and her song Somewhere That’s Green is a standout that shows her longing for a simple life away from Skid Row. Michael Peters is Mr. Mushnik, who’s willing to make compromises that show him to be ethics-challenged if it means making money, and Andrew Pryor-Ramirez is Orin, Audrey’s boyfriend. His portrayal of the leather-clad, motorcycle-riding dentist, who enjoys inflicting pain, captures the swaggering persona of a thuggish member of the motorcycle culture.

Matt Kizer is the voice of Audrey II, and though invisible throughout, he turns in a compelling performance as the increasingly demanding Audrey II. In the song Suppertime, he’s joined by Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette—Anna Vorperian, Vanessa Lopez and Tara Salinger respectively—who play street urchins to set the scene at the beginning, as well as a Motown-type girl group. They have the dance moves down pat, and they’re a welcome element, essentially serving as a chorus to comment on the show’s action.

Katherine Rupers is the puppeteer who brings the ever-growing plant to life, and although the audience never sees her, she plays an essential role in making a key character fit in smoothly and believably—as much as a fantasy allows. The three-piece band, with Deborah Chambliss as conductor and pianist, are tucked to one side of the stage, and the music, which is largely based on early 1960s rock and roll, adds immeasurably to the show’s enjoyment.

Little Shop of Horrors takes place in the roomy James Dunn Theatre, and the set design takes full advantage of the large stage to capture the Skid Row environment and accommodate a large and malicious plant. Costumes reflect the characters well and are yet another element of a well-honed production that pays attention to detail.

Little Shop of Horrors, the musical, had its premiere in 1982 and is based on the low-budget, black comedy film of the same name from the 1960s. Music is by Alan Menken and book by Howard Ashman, and it mixes horror, comedy and music successfully. It won several awards, including a Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical.

Lisa Morse and the COM cast and crew, which includes several COM alumni, have produced an entertaining evening of theater that’s light and doesn’t require deep thinking. It’s a feel-good show that makes people happy, and what could be better for a season opener?

 

Little Shop of Horrors runs through Sunday, October 13. The show is two hours with one 15-minute intermission. For tickets go to brownpapertickets.com or call the Box Office at  415-485-9385. This show is not recommended for children under 10.

This season’s productions also include Middletown, which opens on November 22, 2019, and William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which opens on February 28, 2020. For more information on COM’s drama department, go to pa.marin.edu/drama/.