"Little Shop of Horrors" is a grisly tale of a human-eating plant.
If it's done right, it will have you laughing from start to finish.
Based on the 1960 low-budget Jack Nicholson horror movie, the story changes all too easily to humor in this musical stage adaptation. In fact, the black-and-white film is unintentionally funny.
Woodminster Summer Musicals, staging its first indoor show, performs the piece with precise comic style as it vamps the ever-growing, always-hungry Venus human trap-style plant across the stage at Holy Names University.
The musical is so good, it's nearly actor-proof. But at Woodminster, performed by a well-directed professional cast that knows its comedy, the show is an astonishingly good couple hours of laughter. Director Joel Schlader, a drama professor at the university as well as Woodminster's artistic director, knows his stuff -- he grew up around a summer theater program operated by his parents.
The cast, many of whom have Woodminster experience and killer instincts for inducing laughs, jump on "Little Shop" like a pride of lions leaping on an airdrop of rare prime rib. They all seem eager to show this musical new tricks, and they have succeeded (and this is coming from someone who has seen the show many times, in theaters from New York to Modesto).
The show opens in the flower shop of Mr. Mushnik (Stu Klitsner), conveniently located on Skid Row. On the sidewalk at stage left, a wino is
Mr. Mushnik, sort of a muttering mensch, is frustrated by his little corner of Skid Row -- he doesn't understand his neighbors and he doesn't understand his employees, but he does understand Skid Row is not the best place for a flower business, unless you have some sort of gimmick.
And that's just what employee Seymour (John Tichenor) is offering with Audrey II, a flesh-eating plant that is beginning to get some attention at the store. The plant is named for Audrey (Ashley Cowl) a beautiful but not overly bright fellow clerk. Seymour has a big crush on Audrey, but she only has eyes for Orin Scrivello, DDS (Noel Anthony), a motorcycle-riding dentist whose hobbies include recreational drug use and putting people, especially girlfriends, in pain. Seymour figures this out when Audrey shows up to work the day after her dates with a black eye and other injuries.
As this love triangle plays out, a bigger issue arises, as the new plant grows bigger and hungrier and people start disappearing.
Here is where things begin to sound gruesome, but "Little Shop," despite the violent nature of what is going on, stays on the silly side of things. In fact, never has the concept of death-by-plant been so wildly funny.
It helps that the show is buoyed by an array of jolly, funny tunes, including "Feed Me" and "Suddenly, Seymour," most written in the style of 1960s girl-group, pop and R&B numbers.
And, of course, everyone who doesn't get eaten lives happily ever after.
Contact Pat Craig at email@example.com.
'LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS'
By Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, presented by
Woodminster Summer Musicals
Where: Valley Center for the Performing Arts, Holy Names University, Oakland
Running time: 2 hours