B y J a n a R i v e r a
HOW LONG HAS it been since you've had laugh-out-loud fun at the theater? I guarantee an evening of Fun (with a capital F) if you go see Arizona Theatre Company's zippy production of Little Shop of Horrors.
Now that's a pretty hefty recommendation coming from someone who has no appreciation for musicals. But Little Shop of Horrors is not your average musical. Sure, it's got snappy tunes and nimble dance steps courtesy of musical director Jerry Wayne Harkey and choreographer Patricia Wilcox, but it offers so much more.
What other musical offers a singing, dancing, talking, man-eating plant? Not one comes to mind. In addition, Little Shop of Horrors has an adorable, nerdy botanist, a perky buxom blonde (I know these are easy to come by, but this one's special), three da-doo girls, a mean and nasty--but harmless--flower peddler, and a nitrous oxide-sucking, sadistic dentist.
See what I mean? What fun!
For those of you who missed the original low-budget "B" movie cult classic in 1960, then missed any one of more than 2,000 performances of the 1982 off-Broadway play, then again missed the 1986 movie version of Little Shop of Horrors, let me give you a brief synopsis:
Seymour, the nerdy botanist, loves Audrey, the perky, buxom blonde. Together they work in Mr. Mushnik's Skid Row Flower Shop. The three of them are as down and broke as anybody can get. Audrey more than occasionally comes to work with a few bruises inflicted by her boyfriend, the leather-garbed, sadistic dentist. But she can't dump him because, as she tells Seymour, "He's the only fella I got." And fellas are hard to come by on skid row.
Mushnik's Skid Row Flower Shop in Tom Butsch's creative set design is surrounded by other down-and-out shops such as "Clip Joint Barbers," "Low Life Pool Hall," and a vendor sporting a sign to sell "slightly used cigars."
A peculiar little plant named Audrey II that Seymour's been nursing in the back room just might be their ticket out of skid row. But the plant has an ugly secret. And Seymour's in on it. 'Cause how else will he win Audrey's love?
From Seymour to the plant, the ATC cast performs to perfection. John Allee combines earnest nerdiness with gullible simplicity to create an adorable Seymour. Opposite him, Debby Rosenthal scampers across the stage on tippy-toes, talking in a breathy, sing-song voice with a mild Brooklyn accent creating a sweet, pitiful Audrey.
John Schiappa plays a half-dozen plant-lookers, each one with gusto, in addition to the pain-inflicting dentist, a part on which he thrives. Dennis Rowland is strong and bold as the voice of Audrey II, and in perfect rhythm with Ed Fusco, the movement of Audrey II. Benjamin Stewart, an ATC regular, has fun with the greedy Mushnik.
All in the cast are talented singers, including the da-doo girls, Sharon Leal, Kimberly Hawthorne, and Bambi Jones.
Director David Ira Goldstein keeps the whole thing--special effects, dance steps, music and action--whizzing.
Just one caution. Before you pack the kids into the car and head down to ATC to see that cute talking plant, keep a few things in mind: That cute talking plant sucks the blood out of people to stay alive, and then when its teeth get big enough, it just chomps right down on any human being that gets too close.
And if that's not enough to give the kids nightmares, don't forget the sadistic dentist who sings of bashing in the heads of little animals and knocks his girlfriend around a little if she forgets to bring the handcuffs for their date.
Now I've made it sound quite horrible, but believe me, in the cartoonish context of the play, it's hilarious. But you might want to get a babysitter for the evening.
Arizona Theatre Company's production of Little Shop of Horrors continues with performances Tuesday through Sunday through December 16 at the Alice Holsclaw Theatre in the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave. Tickets are $21 to $30, with discounts for seniors, students, and military. For reservations call 622-2823. For times and additional information call 884-4877.
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