By Thom deMartino
In a season of ghosts and ghouls, tricks and treats, sometimes the scariest monsters are growing right in our very backyards…
The day is long and unforgiving, in the downtrodden district of 1950’s Skid Row, and the job at Mushnik’s Flower Shop is as thankless as its namesake, Mr. Mushnik (a larger-than-life Jay Harbison). Business has slowed to a trickle, and at this rate he’ll have to let go his two long-time employees — the beautiful, bruised Audrey (Rebecca Thomas), and the awkward but well-intentioned Seymour (Whitney Ackerman.)
However there may be a gleam of hope, in the form of Seymour’s special project: an unusual Venus Flytrap-like plant he’s been nurturing, that he’s adoringly christened the “Audrey II” — and while his boss isn’t sold on the strange and unusual plant, it’s attracting much-needed attention… and cash, from a newly well-paying clientele.
But while the money finally starts rolling in for Mushnik, his employees still have problems of their own: Audrey is contending with her low self-esteem and conflicted feelings over her suave (and violently abusive) boyfriend, dental hygienist Orin (a wonderfully over-the-top Matt Ambrose), while Seymour struggles with his feelings for his lovely coworker … and his troubles keeping his precious project from wilting without its special nutrients — specifically, fresh blood.
The young horticulturist only has so many fingers to prick, only so much plasma to provide his persnickety plant… which suddenly begins incessantly voicing its bloody hunger. But how to sate such an unrepentant and insatiable appetite?
It’s the perfect season for the spooky and side-splitting “Little Shop of Horrors”, directed by Martie Ramm and now playing at Golden West College. Those who might be familiar with the popular 1980’s film rendition may be pleasantly surprised with some of the differences between the live and celluloid versions: while audiences may miss the masochistic dental patient they remember from the movie, they’re guaranteed to enjoy a number of songs not included in the film version, including the lively and toe-tapping “Mushnik and Son”, performed beautifully by Harbison and Ackerman.
Besides their outstanding vocal performances, there’s a fascinating dualistic dynamic between Thomas’ Audrey and Ackerman’s Seymour: both wanting acceptance and belonging, but both feeling so undeserving of happiness… even the young woman’s reticence to leave the abusive relationship because she feels she doesn’t warrant a “decent guy” feels heartbreakingly familiar to those who may have seen similar events unfold in real life.
Some of the best performances include not only the main players, but also Ambrose’s take on the sadistic dentist; the three singers Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette (played by Jodi Marks, Lydia McDonald and Kneesa Hougen, respectively) acting as audience proxy and Greek chorus to the events and players of the story; but particularly the synergy that gives life to the increasingly sizable and bloodthirsty Audrey II, menacingly voiced by Doc Adams and puppeteered by Isabel Palmer.
It’s delightfully macabre fun for all ages, playing for a limited time at Golden West College: just remember NOT to feed the plants.
“Little Shop of Horrors.” Whitney Ackerman, Rebecca Thomas and Jay Harbison star in this popular and hysterical horticultural horror story. Now playing through Oct. 17 at Golden West College’s Mainstage Theater, 15751 Gothard St, Huntington Beach, CA 92647. Tickets available through the box office at 714-895-8150, x1 or at http://www.gwctheater.com.
Categories: Arts & Leisure