Sunday, September 2, 2012

Glendale Centre Theatre's Little Shop of Horrors

Karen Volpe and Brenton Schraff. Photo by Nathan Milisavljevich

I’ll say this about Glendale Centre Theatre….they sure know how to stage a musical in the round. Director Danny Michaels, along with co-director and choreographer Orlando Alexander, beautifully maximizes the assets of GCT’s 400+ seat theatre and gives the audience an upbeat and creative Little Shop of Horrors that makes this sci-fi spoof of Roger Corman’s low-budget black comedy a one-stop shop for fun. 

The very sweet production and equally endearing cast use every staircase, landing, and playing area available to create the skid row flower shop and streets of New York in the early 1960s. It is here where lovable loser Seymour Krelborn, whose low self-esteem pales only in comparison to that of his co-worker, Audrey, discovers a most unusual plant following a total eclipse of the sun. He brings the mysterious new breed of fly trap back to the failing shop where he works and soon “Audrey II” takes on a life of its own, exhibiting an appetite for blood that creates trouble for everyone within its reach. Little do they know that Audrey II’s master plan involves nothing less than world domination.

With book & lyrics by Howard Ashman and an Alan Menken score, Little Shop of Horrors’ popularity has made it one of the longest-running Off-Broadway shows ever and a regional favorite across the country. It even appeared as a revival on Broadway starring Kerry Butler, Hunter Foster and Douglas Sills. Glendale Centre Theatre’s commitment to family entertainment makes Little Shop a great choice for its audience base. The songs are catchy and fun, and the enthusiastic cast keeps the energy high. 

Teens will love the irreverence of the sassy girl group trio, Chiffon (Sinead De Vries), Crystal (Amanda Knight), and Ronnette (Katherine Washington) who weave in and out of the action like a Greek chorus with their hips twitching and eyebrows cocked with attitude. Plus, they blend beautifully on Menken’s 60’s doo-wop harmonies.

Karen Volpe gives Audrey an endearing vulnerability that makes us root for her from the very beginning and the yearning in her voice in “Somewhere That’s Green” is quite poignant. Brenton Schraff may not bring anything new to his portrayal of Seymour but it’s enough to create a likeable underdog of a hero. Jason Keef has more difficulty, however, with his unfocused turn as Audrey’s abusive boyfriend, Orin Scrivello. Richard Malmos is less the menacing Mushnik than blustery boss but his “Mushnik and Son” tango with Schraff still delivers on the laughs. 

One casting choice that paid off is Dedrick Bonner as the voice of Audrey II. Often the villainous role is cast as a very low bass/baritone but Bonner’s resonance sits slightly higher giving him a wider range of flexibility both with his speaking voice and his R&B singing voice that brings a nice freshness to the role. Musical director Steven Applegate makes the most of it.

Lighting designer Jeremy Williams enhances the fluidity of the show by shifting scenes in blue light and directing the audience’s attention across the room with his use of quick cut lighting effects. Costumer Angela Wood provides nice touches with the costumes, and the design of Audrey II in its varying stages is also quite clever (though uncredited).

Little Shop of Horrors is musical comedy at its twisted best and Glendale Centre Theatre’s production is sure to make you smile while you're moving to the music. Take the whole family for the fun…just remember, don’t feed the plants!

Little Shop of HorrorsGlendale Centre Theatre, 324 N. Orange Street, Glendale, CA 91203 through October 6th. Tickets are available at or by calling (818) 244-8481.

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