Aurdrey II takes over stage at Lakewood Playhouse

June 5, 2018

“Feed me Seymour!

Carl Caralas/ Staff Photos
Actors left to right, Niclas olson (Seymour), Joelle Craft (Chiffon), and Brittany Griffins (Ronnette). Ronnette sings to Seymour in surprise that his wired flower is helping make his dreams come true in becoming more well known. The song is “Ya Never Know”.

There is a most unique plant currently growing in Mr. Mushnik’s (Tim McFarlan) flower shop on Skid Row. The plant, named “Audrey II” by florist nerd Seymour Krelborn (Niclas Olson), needs a special type of nourishment so she can “grow up big and strong”. However, the food she wants is not Miracle Grow and you won’t find it at your local Costco or Fred Meyer.

Feeding Audrey II is going to be a major problem facing Seymour in the horror-comedy musical “Little Shop of Horrors”. The 1982 Off-Broadway musical was created by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman. The dark-humored play is based on the 1960 Roger Corman film of the same name. as well as a popular 1986 film adaptation of “Little Shop of Horrors” directed by Frank Oz.

The play is directed by Tacoma Little Theatre’s Managing Artistic Director Chris Serface. He confirmed that his production is based on the 1982 Off-Broadway play and not on the 1986 Frank Oz film. This means that Seymour and Audrey, (Jennifer Redston) the girl he has a crush on, will possibly be in mortal danger from Audrey II once they learn that the plant is a Mean Green Mother from Outer Space.

“Little Shop Of Horrors” is a story about a young man who works at a flower shop on Skid Row. Seymour Krelborn acquires a plant he names Audrey II after Audrey, the girl he is in love with. Unfortunately, Audrey has a boyfriend, a sadistic dentist named Orin Scrivello (William Johnson). Seymour’s boss Mr. Mushnik is about to fire him for his incompetence when Audrey II arrives from outer space. The plant saves Mr. Mushnik’s business from going belly up. However, the situation becomes complicated when Seymour learns that Audrey II feeds on blood.

Will John (Orin) sings his song “Dentist!” as pours his heart out of how he loves his job as a dentist. Inflicting pain on others and inhaling his laughing gas.

Director Chris Surface chose a fine cast of actors to star in his production. They were perfect in their execution of the “Greek Chorus” of Ronette, Chiffon and Crystal. The sound was amazing due in part to the use of a live orchestra behind the stage. The sounds of the instruments and the actors’ singing made me feel like I was living “down in Skid Row”.

Actors Left to right Antoniette Nicole Bridges (Crystal), Jennifer Redston (Audrey) (front), Brittany Griffins (Ronnette) (Behind), Joelle Craft (Chiffon). Audrey sings her poor heart to Crystal, Ronnette, and Chiffon about how she wants to live a beautiful family life with Seymour. The song is called “Somewhere that’s Green”.

The revolving set was a feast for the eyes. A lot of time and ingenuity was put into creating Mr. Mushnik’s flower shop. Even the flower pots that Seymour kept breaking, much to Mushnik’s chagrin, had detail.

The growth of Audrey II takes place in three stages. She starts out as a cute little plant held in Seymour’s arms. It does not take long before the puppet is trying to bite people (including some of the members of the audience). Soon she is as tall as Seymour and starts to speak and sing. Eric Clausell brilliantly mimics Levi Stubbs who did the voice of Audrey II in the Frank Oz film. I actually felt vulnerable in a comic sort of way when the plant grew so tall she toured over the actors. I certainly had reason to be tense when one by one the actors ended up as hord’oeuvres for Audrey. The puppeteers animated that plant so well it was scary.

The actors had a mesmerizing way as they became the characters that they were playing. Niclas Olsen was a delightfully naïve Seymour who allows himself to be manipulated by Audrey II into bringing her food (FEED ME!). Jennifer Redston was extraordinary in her ability to replicate Ellen Greene’s Audrey from the 1986 film including Audrey’s signature squeaky voice. Will Johnson is hilarious as Orin, Audrey’s fiendish dentist boyfriend who has an unfortunate addiction to nitrous oxide. It is difficult for anyone not to laugh when Orin meets his demise stumbling around the stage wearing a space helmet “filled” with laughing gas. The story’s exposition, set to music, is provided by Crystal (Antoinette Nicole Bridges) Chiffon (Joelle Craft) and Ronnette (Brittany Griffins) a singing ladies group from the 1960s, sporting beehive hairstyles.

All of the hard work that Chris Serface and his entourage have put into creating “Little Shop of Horrors” was worth it. This production should satisfy anybody who loves musicals and has a macabre sense of humor. I would encourage anybody who and black humor to come to the Lakewood Playhouse and see this play.

Ticket prices are available at https://www.lakewoodplayhouse.org/

Senior 60+/Military                $28.00

Educator/student                    $25.00

Adult                                       $30.00

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