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Carte Blanche Studios’ recent revival of the campy rock musical Little Shop of Horrors reminds us of just how fun a night at the theater can be, regardless of some of this production’s challenges.

It’s been 30 years since the original off- Broadway production debuted based on the 1960 movie about a man-eating plant from outer space. Thanks to a terrific musical score combining rhythm and blues with rock doo-wop, colorfully drawn characters (plant included) and some nicely drawn performances, this Shop is more hilarious than horrific.

Nerdy orphan Seymour finds a mysterious plant that resurrects the dying plant shop’s business on Skid Row and also attracts the attention of the sweet, innocent Audrey, the object of Seymour’s secret affection. As the plant grows, so does the attention of customers and media alike, throwing the obscure shop into the maelstrom of overnight fame and fortune. (Carte Blanche obtained the cleverly designed plant puppets used in the 2003 production at Skylight Music Theatre.)

The plant, named “Audrey II,” needs human blood. And suppertime’s always around the corner, literally, at this shop.

Adrian F. Feliciano’s Seymour is the perfect inept but sweet nerd, all fingers and fumbling but with a charm that wins over the audience—and Audrey. It is Emily Craig’s excellent performance, however, as the dippy Audrey with a heart of gold that steers this production.

Michael Traynor’s comedic send-up as Audrey’s sadistic dentist boyfriend (amid a host of other minor roles) adds much of the campy comic relief, with sinister, sinewy moves regardless of what he’s doing.

Not all cast members were up to the musical score’s vocal challenges, straining at times and dropping lines even at the second performance. But what they lack in range, they more than make up for in exuberant enthusiasm. Director James Dragolovich tries to make the most of Carte Blanche’s cramped stage, though at times it cramped the actors’ movements, especially as the man-eating plant literally takes over (which is exactly what “Audrey II” has in mind for planet Earth).

If it sounds like a whole lot of fun, it is—and well worth the visit to this Shop, “horrors” and all.

Little Shop of Horrors runs through May 6 at Carte Blanche Studios, 1024 S. Fifth St. For more information, call 414-688-7313 or visit www.carteblanchestudios.com.

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