Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
August 12, 2011
Grab the kids and head for the hills! There’s a man-eating plant on the loose! Look out for bloody limbs, gory songs and a sadistic, nitrous-inhaling dentist. Audrey II is back in town, guaranteed to steal your heart – and have it for lunch.
Sci-fi spoof, doo-wop delight and goofball musical extraordinaire, “Little Shop of Horrors” has settled into Old Town – with a vengeance.
Perhaps you remember the Roger Corman B-movie original of 1960, or the later film adaptation of the pop-rock musical that premiered Off Broadway in 1982 and ran for a staggering 2200 performances, or the DC Comics version, or the Saturday morning cartoon. Just as that evil, alien plant planned, it’s taken over the country. And now it’s ravaging San Diego again.
Cygnet Theatre artistic director Sean Murray has moved away from the camp and back to the noir sendup. The set, in fact, ingeniously designed by Sean Fanning, is all black and white and gray, as are Shirley Pierson’s killer costumes. The only onstage color is the brilliant green of the ever-expanding plant, a magnificent, size-sequenced series of puppets imported from Monkey Boy Productions in Pennsylvania; and the blood-red spangles on the Supremes-like trio that serves as Greek chorus and seems complicit in the plight of poor, hapless Seymour.
All he wants is Audrey – the somewhat slutty flesh and blood one — who , at the outset, is busy being abused by that monstrous, malevolent dentist. But after a solar eclipse, Seymour is introduced to the little flytrap that, with its demanding diet of human blood, grows to mammoth proportion, resulting in Seymour’s fame, fortune and serial homicides. It doesn’t end well for anyone – except the devious greenery.
The show is as silly as ever, but it’s kind of inspired silliness, and if you give yourself over to it, it’ll devour you with its catchy Alan Menken tunes and clever lyrics by the late Howard Ashman.
Melissa Fernandes is a knockout as Audrey, a role that highlights her prodigious singing and acting chops. Brandon Joel Maier, an alumnus of the SDSU Musical Theatre MFA program, is charming as Seymour, and Geno Carr is a hoot in a number of roles and accents, from the pompadoured , Elvis-like dentist to the Germanic fiend who propagates the bloodthirsty bulb that bears a booming, bluesy, basso voice, courtesy of unseen David McBean .
The excellent six-piece band, under the musical direction of Tim McKnight, sounds surprisingly muted and pre-recorded. But audiences are eating it all up, and you will, too. Like the characters, here’s hoping you also wind up “Somewhere that’s Green.”
“Little Shop of Horrors” runs through September 11 at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town.
©2011 PAT LAUNER