Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay


Little Shop of Horrors
Ray of Light Theatre
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of Chess, Dear Master and August: Osage County


Mary Kalita and Sam Faustine
Photo by Erik Scanlon
Ray of Light is presenting Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's heartwarming tale of a boy, a girl, and a man-eating plant. Little Shop of Horrors is currently devouring the Victoria stage with a giant killer plant looking for victims. The infectious rhythm and blues score by Alan Menken (music) and Howard Ashman (the catchy lyrics) is a delight. This is a be-bop musical with the heart of a Venus Flytrap.

I first saw Little Shop on Halloween in 1982 at the Orpheum Theatre on Second Avenue in New York. It was a hell of a lot of fun, especially on that holiday. It started out as Roger Corman's 1960 low budget movie which became a cult classic. After it ran Off-Broadway, it was made into a musical film starring Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene. Little Shop of Horrors had been performed in many regional theaters and schools, from junior high on up, throughout the states.

The musical takes place in a flower shop run by the irritable Mr. Mushnik (Tim Hart) on New York's Skid Row. He has two employees, nerdy orphan Seymour (Sam Faustine) and waif-like, good time girl Audrey (Mary Kalita). They scratch out a pitiful living. However, Seymour discovers a tiny plant in the store shaped like a mouth. He cultivates this extraordinary plant which talks, and he names the plant Audrey 2 and makes a Faustian pact with it. Mr. Mushnik and Audrey recognize the moneymaking potential of the exotic little plant. However, they do not realize that this plant's favorite food is human blood. As Audrey 2 continues to grow and its demand for food grows, the feeding frenzy begins. Several characters who are not very loveable get thrown into the plant, causing Audrey 2 to keep yelling "Feed Me."

Sam Faustine gives a pitch perfect performance as Seymour. He is very mousy in appearance and has terrific vocal chops in "Do-Doo," "Closed for Renovation," and, especially, "Suddenly, Seymour." Mary Kalita is wonderful as Audrey. She has a likeable personality with her dizzy blonde accent and a striking soprano voice when singing.

The small cast includes Brendon North playing various roles, including the sadistic dentist who is deliciously sycophantic. He gets a chance to show off his vocal cords with "Dentist," and his imitation of Elvis' swagger is choice. Tim Hart gives a splendid performance as Mr. Mushnik. Outstanding are the members of the girl group trio who belt out do-wop melodies, Jaqueline Dennis, Phaedra Johnson and Katrina McGraw. They tear the stage apart with their snappy moves and great voices. Jessica Coker provides an arresting voice for Audrey 2 while the plant is worked marvelously by puppeteers Billy Raphael and Josiah Minued.

Ben Prince, conductor and music director of the five-piece orchestra, keeps the Motown-ish beat going, especially with the girl group. The set by Chrissy Curl is an excellent detailed run-down flower shop, and the puppet design by Devon LaBelle looks like a campy Venus Flytrap. It continues to grow throughout the musical, taking up at least a quarter of the stage. Jason Hoover sharply directs.

Little Shop of Horrors runs through October 6th, 2016, at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th Street, San Francisco. For tickets visit rayoflighttheatre.com. Coming up next is The Rocky Horror Show opening on October 27 and running through November 5th. Coming on January 25, 2017 is Silence! The Musical.


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