Alan Menken (music) and Howard Ashman’s (book and lyrics) cult gothic musical “The Little Shop of Horrors” based on the film by Roger Corman with screenplay by Charles Griffith is currently on stage at New Village Arts Theater in Carlsbad through Aug, 4th.
It is smartly directed by AJ Knox, who made a few subtle changes in casting and brought it a little more up to date, but nothing so drastic as to change the camp as in Camp!
Here are the gory details. Audrey (Cashae Monya) and her co-worker Seymour, (Sattichai Chaiyahat) an orphan who was taken off the streets by Mrs. Mushnik and now works for his lodgings… in the cellar of the flower shop, are trying to keep themselves busy in spite of the lack of business. Their one big account is the local mortuary,and they have a standing order of black roses when needed.
|Patricia Jewel, Natasha Baenisch and Chris Bona|
Both Audrey and Seymour work in ‘Skid Row Florists’ owned by the cantankerous Mrs. Mushnik (Melissa Fernandes who once upon a time played Audrey). The shop is located smack dab in the dregs of, yup! Skid Row. Business is so bad there that Mushnik is ready to close up shop and call it a day. It’s at this time that Audrey urges Seymour to put his latest exotic plant experiment (spawned during a total eclipse of the sun) in the window to attract any on looker who might pass by. (“Da Doo”, “Grow For Me”)
The plant is a Venus Fly Trap that Seymour has named Audrey II (Eboni Muse in full Audrey II bloom) after the woman he secretly loves, Audrey I. Unfortunately, Audrey has a boyfriend Orin Scrivello, D.D.S. (Philip David Black over the top sniffer of whatever) who is a sadist dentist and horror of horrors, an abuser to the tenth degree. He takes pleasure in beating up on Audrey, much to Seymour’s chagrin.
|Chris Bona, Cashae Monya, Natasha Baenisch and Patricia Jewel|
Things go from bad to worse when Seymour realizes that Audrey II’s growth is in direct proportion to how much blood and guts (read of human consumption and that includes body parts) that Seymour gives her to nosh on. As the plant flourishes, so does the reputation of the flower shop and Seymour’s star soars from Nebbish to Nebbish Hero overnight. (“Suddenly Seymour”)
The 1960 black and white movie about a man-eating plant has its cult following as does “Rocky Horror Show”, “Cry Baby” and yes “Batboy, The Musical.” Every now and then, one will pop up out of the blue.
|Melissa Fernandes and Sittichai Chaiyahat|
“Little Shop” the musical went viral after the 1982 off -Broadway production. Then as the Broadway productions ran on and on, it soon it became the favorite of just about every community, high school, touring and local company throughout the world. Yours truly has seen it more time than I care to recall and each one is busier than the next, this one included. As another morsel of grisly for Audrey II, it was made into a film in 1986 directed by Frank Oz.
|Natasha Baenisch, Sittichai Chaiyhat with Audrey, Chris Bona and Patricia Jewel|
The show opens (“on the twenty-third day of the month of September in an early year of a decade not too long before our own”) with a prologue/introduction bystreet urchins/ Greek Chorus Chiffon (Patricia Jewel), Ronnie (Chris Bona) and Crystal (Natasha Baenisch), singing doo-wop, rock and roll and early Motown, “Skid Row” (Downtown).
As the great voiced Greek Chorus, they manage to be in almost every scene, hangin’ in and around the flower shop, dressed in Amanda Quivey’s variety sparkling costumes and bringing the story up to date. Hanging around the shop is a low life bum (Philip David Black) who morphs into several other characters.
The show takes off in a different direction after Audrey II grows big enough (hats off to puppet designer Madison Mellon who also designed the puppets for “Avenue Q” at the Long Beach Playhouse), after devouring the remains of, you’ll just have to see for yourselves...and she finally makes her appearance as the She Eating Plant (Eboni Muse) in all her shining glory swallowing her next victim (whole?) after demanding of Seymor “Feeed Mee!” like an echo chamber.
|Audrey II (Eboni Muse)|
Muse (“Sudden Changes”, “Feed Me”, “Git It”) has a mega voice that captures the essence of the blood thirsty Audrey II in all its glory and especially as she embraces her next meal, er victim, by pulling them in and swallowing them to places most want to avoid. She fills a huge void in the ever- changing world of “Little Shop” and puts a new spin on the girl eating plant. Back in the day she was a he and it was a man eating plant.
Supported by on overall strong cast with the withering Cashae Monya as the loveable Audrey, sought after by Seymour and abused by Orin , she stands out in one dated musical number, so at odds with itself for this type of sentimentality, “Somewhere That’s Green”, that in its irony, makes the burbs sound like a magic kingdom.
With a nod to Ruby Dee look alike rather than Donna Reed (in the original lyrics), that for some it brought back an era of real chain link fences, ironing machines, plastic covering the furniture, Pine Sol and frozen dinners, mowing lawns and cooking like Betty Crocker that was long ago lost in the pages of history books.
|Cashae Monya and Sittichai Chaiyahat|
Sittichai’s Seymour is the poor guy who can’t stop swooning over Audrey without falling flat on his face before he notices that she, too is attracted but scared to death of Orin that she would rather be chained and abused than cross him. He too, comes back with raising the body count to satisfy Audrey II, knowing what he’s doing is wrong, but falling into the trap, not the Venus one, of loving all the attention and ‘stuff’ that money can buy, and he too falls into the greedy world of more is better.
|Natasha Baenisch, Philip David Black and Patricia Jewel|
Melisssa Fernandes just keeps guzzling down (she has bottles of her favorite drink hidden in the soil of most of her wilted plants) to keep her sanity until the money keeps rolling in and then she’s well, even then she’s not very happy. What a great role for her.
Philip David Black is a hoot as the many characters, but not so funny as the dentist who can’t get away from himself where it’s turn about is fair play when Seymour confronts him. No spoiler here.
|Philip David Black as Orin DDS|
Doug Cummings designed the set leaving enough room for Audrey II to spread her tentacles every which way and still have room for the flower shop to be used as the playing space.
The creative team consists of Kevin “Blax” Burroughs choreography, musical direction by Benjamin Gonea’s, conducted by Tony Houck. David Romero, lighting, Viola Ceja, sound, Amanda Quivey costumes and Missy Bradstreet wigs.
But do carry on and keep feeding Audrey II so she can be sustained until Aug. 4th.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Aug. 4th
Organization: New Village Arts Theatre
Production Type: Horror Comedy Rock Musical
Where: 2787 State Street, Carlsbad Village, 92008
Ticket Prices: $25.00-$47.00
Photo: Daren Scott