Little Shop of Horrors/book & lyrics by Howard Ashman; music by Alan Menken/directed by Danny Michaels & Orlando Alexander/Glendale Centre Theatre (GCT), Glendale/through October 6
As many times as I see Little Shop, I delight in its madcap, ageless appeal. Theatre lovers adore camp and, of course, LSH has it in spades. Every time I hear "Somewhere That's Green" or "Suddenly, Seymour" I think of the original Audrey Ellen Greene whose high-pitched voice and fast, slutlike gait are locked in my memory for all time. Monsters, an overly abusive boyfriend who also happens to be a masochistic dentist, a miserably impoverished & risked-filled existence on skid row, and the Shirelles or The Supremes serving as a Greek Chorus? Well, why not? This is 50s, 60s rock! so the sky's the limit.
GCT's current mounting starts off in full throttle motion and is pretty much maintained throughout by directors Danny Michaels and Orlando Alexander and their fabulously energized cast. Brenton Schraff makes a very natural Seymour whose expressive underdog is obvious but never manic and certainly winning the audience's sympathetic affection. The glorious Karen Volpe makes Audrey her very own creation with no need of imitation. This lady has such great comic intuition and such a magnificent singing voice that she can be as daring as all get out... and still comes off smelling like a rose. Listening to her fantasize, it is easy to visualize "Somewhere That's Green", and Act II's "Suddenly, Seymour" is rich and emotionally moving. Jason Keef's Orin is despicable enough, but he has more fun - and shows more versatility - in essaying the half dozen or so other characters, including a female, with multiple accents and moods. "Now (It's Just the Gas)" is always hard to carry off - unless, of course, you're Steve Martin- and at present is a tad short of the ecstasy it needs to have. Richard Malmos fits Mr. Mushnik to a tee, and Amanda Knight (Crystal), Sinead De Vries (Chiffon) and Katherine Washington (Ronnette) give the singing trio divine diva life. These gals also have a natural look, as if they literally came right off the street. Praise as well to Dedrick Bonner as the pleading voice of Audrey II. He's quieter than I am used to hearing, but still seductive ... and to Carl Garcia as Audrey II 's puppeteer. Michael's and Alexander's pacing as directors is even, and their staging works well, especially utilizing the aisles for certain exterior scenes and the tiny stage above for the fully grown Audrey II, positioned like an demonic ugly goddess on a throne.
Over all, this LSH holds its own as a fun-filled evening. You'll find yourself swaying in time to the music, and like some friends of mine, mouthing the words and even singing along. With only a few minor adjustments to be made, this is another fine endeavor for GCT!