‘LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS’ IS EATING UP THE SF MISSION, AND YOU NEED TO BE IN LINE
TO SEE THIS PLANT AND FEED HER!
Audrey II has planted herself for the fall season at Ray of Light’s Victoria Stage in the SF Mission through Oct 8th. LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is the perfect pop 50’s score musical to get you ready for the 2016 Holiday season (well at least for Oct 31). LITTLE SHOP is a musical that will appeal to all tastes and delights. It is snarky and a darkly comic subject matter coexist uneasily with its hip doo- wop music score and nonstop energy. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's gem of a tale is boy meets girl, and a blood thirsty plant. This is a superb musical with the beat of a loveable monster who will steal (eat your heart). After a successful Off-Broadway run, it was made into a film with Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene. LITTLE SHOP is a popular regional show to do, since audience love the Monster. After seeing the impressive Nicholas Olivero production at his Cable Car skid row theatre that was turned into the flower shop, a few seasons back, I did not think I could be won over by another Audrey II, but it has happened and I was ready to open my veins for her at ROLT.
The two-act musical is taken from the plot of a low-budget horror movie. It follows what happens when nerdy, Skid Row floral shop employee, Seymour, played by the marvelous Sam Faustine, who has been rescued from an orphanage and exploited by the shop’s owner, Mr. Mushnik. Local favorite Tim Hart is the flower shop boss and he is a bully to his two assistants. He realizes his flower shop assistant, Seymour, has a sure way to keep the doors open at the failing business. Seymour discovers a tiny plant with a snarky smile that he has created. Seymour names the plant Audrey II after his crush and fellow employee, Audrey, played by the lovely Mary Kalita. She is in love with an abusive boyfriend, a sadistic, yet charming dentist played by the awesome Brendon North. He appears throughout the story as other characters but his evil “Dentist” number is a show stopper and North shows off his impressive voice. When blood thirsty Audrey II begins demanding to be fed, Seymour comes up with a solution that solves some problems while creating some other fun issues.
Director Jason Hoover has assembled an excellent high energy cast to keep this Flower Shop rocking under Music Director Ben Prince’s five member band on the upper set. The story opens with the three Greek in subtext chorus members singing “Little Shop of Horrors” Chiffon, Crystal and Ronette are always on stage or in the wings keeping Ashman's songs lively and intense Rhythm and Blues. Performed by three powerhouse singers Jacquetine Dennis, Phaedra Johnson, and Katrina McGraw. They swing in “Da-Doo” with Faustine as he shows off his excellent tenor voice. Kalita is wonderful in "Closed for Renovation," and, especially singing the classic, "Suddenly, Seymour." She has a likeable personality with her ditzy blonde appeal and a striking soprano voice that blows up the Victoria Theatre stage.
Faustine and Kalita are a sharp match for the pair of would be lovers, adorable Seymour in his plaid vest and his iconic nerd glasses and Audrey as the sweet and busty doll with her black eye from her boyfriend. Faustine is awkward and smart, he has that professional comic timing and voice for his solo “Grow for Me”. Kalita as Audrey is stunning in “Somewhere That’s Green” and brings that detail to her role.
The smaller cast also includes the evilly, enthusiastic Brendon North who not only drills the best scene in the musical as Orin the Dentist, but plays various roles and is a stand out with an authentic sound. Tim Hart is convincing as Mr. Mushnik and is excellent in “Mushnik and Son” choreographed skillfully by Lauren Rosi. The dynamic Jessica Coker is the voice for Audrey II - not always sung by a female - this was perfect and made Audrey II as lovable as ever. The puppets and monster plant were designed by Devon Labelle and worked by able puppeteers, Billy Raphael and Josiah Minued. Raphael and Minued also play ensemble roles including dingy winos and homeless color that add greatly to Hoover’s production.
Prince’s beat keeps the cast on cue and popping with blues, R&B tunes, and swag. The set designed with levels and vintage skid row by Chrissy Curl is a dingy flower shop that easily expands as Audrey II needs more space for her feeding frenzy. The lighting by Kevin Landesman is convincing, he used nice amounts of back light that spilled into audience. Landesman’s lighting becomes a part of this cast, it is outstanding and captures the monster as she grows. Maggie Whitaker’s costumes play up the caricature of the ’50s and bring colors and the down and out look of some of the players. She kept Seymour in his classic bow tie and Audrey in busty bright colors. The sound design by Theodore J.H. Hulsker is roaring as we hear Miss Audrey II gobble up most of the main cast. Lexie Lazear was on hand to design the wigs and makeup and Kalita’s perfect blond look was not overly camp. Props by Katie Iannatello included colorful plants and a flower shop full of color, and North's props as the dentist were all dusty, rugged and naughty, including his face mask.
It’s a polished production, and director Hoover draws keen performances out of his actors. The musical makes the characters fun and the sold out audience and loyal fans are all about this show, applauding and cheering the Plant and the love on stage. There is some disturbing dark humor but I was waiting for the Plant to chomp and keep this Skid Row floral shop moving. The final number “Don’t Feed the Plants” with the company is blissful in its metaphorical fun and gore. It is a solid, straightforward, fun and entertaining. Ray of Light once again proves itself as one of the stand out talented companies in the Bay Area. Up next is The Rocky Horror Show opening on October 27 and in January 2017 is the long awaited Silence! The Musical. In the meantime come feed the Audrey II, tickets are going fast.
Ray of Light Theatre
Little Shop of Horrors
Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Music by Alan Menken
Directed by Jason Hoover, Music Director Ben Prince
Choreographer Lauren Rosi
Through Oct 8th 2016
2961 16th Street SF Ca
2 hours and 15 minutes with intermission
Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/RayofLightTheatre/?fref=ts
Photo’s by Nick Otto