Metropolitan Performing Arts Theater Little Shop of HorrorsBy Bob Ashby • Mar 29th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Metropolitan Performing Arts Theater
Bryant Alternative High School, Alexandria, VA
Through April 2nd
1:55 with one intermission
Reviewed March 26th, 2011
The problem for the merely human actors in any production of Little Shop of Horrors comes to this: how do you compete with a large, carnivorous, hungry, demanding, extraterrestrial plant? The challenge is all the more acute in the Metropolitan Performing Arts Theater’s current production, where the plant is voiced with over-the-top humor and booming singing by the ubiquitous Jay Tilley.
The most notable way in which this cast meets the challenge is with strong vocals to carry the 1960s-style score. Rachel Goldman as Audrey is the standout, whose fine soprano adds a poignant touch to even the straight-faced spoof of 1960s suburban dreams, “Somewhere that’s Green.” Matt Williams, opposite Goldman as the uber-nerdy Seymour, blends well with her in the best-known song from the show, “Suddenly Seymour.” In the midst of a fanciful, not to say downright silly, plot, involving the increasingly ravenous appetite of the plant (named Audrey II) and Seymour’s increasingly desperate attempts to satisfy it, Goldman and Williams anchor the emotions that allow the audience to care about what’s happening.
The trio of Katie Anderson, Melissa Compton, and Sabrina Campbell introduce and comment upon the action and characters with consistently bright-edged and well-harmonized singing, though their dancing frequently fell short of consensus. Rich Amada makes credible the character role of Mr. Mushnik, owner of the ill-fated flower shop, while Evan Hawker pours on unrelenting creepiness as Orin, a sadistic biker dentist.
The five-piece band provided strong support and good musicianship throughout, and it avoided overbalancing the singers. All the actors were miked, and while this ensured that the volume of speaking and singing was more than adequate, it sometimes did so at the expense of clarity of tone and diction.
The single, simply constructed set, focusing on the flower shop, was adequate, though it contained a too-obvious trapdoor, located behind the plant, that opened conspicuously when actors had to use it to exit the plant. A fugitive arm and hand could occasionally be seen reaching through the door from backstage. At other times, while action continued on stage, stagehands could clearly be seen manipulating the curtains or other objects. Especially in the second act, light cues were chronically late or misdirected. With the exception of Audrey’s unfortunate wig, the costumes worked. The trio’s second-act red dresses were a considerable improvement over their first-act mixed bag of schoolgirl outfits. The evil tooth emblem on the back of Orin’s leather jacket was a particularly nice touch.
Audrey II not only sings and talks, it moves and almost approximates dancing at some points. Carl Eklund, the plant operator, deserves much credit for bringing the odd and ungainly creature to believable life.
“What is Little Shop of Horrors about?” It’s about a terrific score and a fun story that makes people smile, shake-rattle-and-roll, and go down to Motown! It’s about a cast and crew that know how to rock together – and, oh yes, it’s about two assistants in a skid row flower shop who almost learn to believe in themselves but are tragically “done in” by their dependence on a sadistic “Doctor” and a “mean green” man-eating plant. We hope you not only leave the theater tonight smiling and singing a few catchy tunes but also thinking “beware of relying on the wrong things in life.”
As we come to the end of our 5th season at MPAT, we’ve been blessed to assemble a wonderful production team, experienced musicians, an amazing choreographer and a wonderfully talented cast.
We hope you’ll consider joining us on the very gratifying journey of creating live theater. Over a full season, we strive to find a place for everyone interested to be involved behind the scenes or on stage. I’m happy to report, our team focuses on the right things for community theater and that’s the special bonding between individuals that happens when a group strives to create art together while enjoying each other’s company.
So, on with the show and then off to the cast party!
Music Director’s Note
Little Shop of Horrors features music in the style of 1960s-era rock-and-roll, doo-wop, and early Motown – a time when such music was known globally as uniquely American. As such, the score for this musical is comfort food for the American soul, familiar and satisfying as apple pie and ice cream.
Written in the style of a Greek tragedy (complete with “Muses”), Little Shop is in essence a morality play. The main characters, once innocent, are corrupted into evil by their own weaknesses and failings. Audrey II, then, is a representation of how Evil creeps into our lives – it starts small but can grow into something that overcomes us. The musical ends with a dire warning, “Don’t Feed the Plants!” Finding the humanity in this fantasy is as simple as asking what ‘plants’ exist in our own lives and are we feeding when we should be weeding?
Thanks to Dan for inviting me to be a part of this production and our amazing and hard-working cast, orchestra, and crew, who have all been a pleasure to work with. Your tireless efforts have resulted in a fantastic show of which we can all be proud. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to work on this show with my lovely and talented wife, who makes Music Directing, being a husband and parenting a joy.
Photos provided by Metropolitan Performing Arts Theater
- Seymour: Matt Williams
- Audrey: Rachel Goldman
- Mushnik: Rich Amada
- Orin: Evan Hawker
- Ronnette: Katie Anderson
- Crystal: Melissa Compton
- Chiffon: Sabrina Campbell
- Voice of Audrey II//Wino/Announcer: Jay Tilley
- Audrey II operator: Carl Eklund
- Wino/Bernstein: Eric Fink
- Homeless Man/Skip Snip: Jeffrey Galvan
- Police Officer: Ed Guadalupe
- Street Walker: Gaia Chu
- Bag Lady/Mrs. Luce: Emmaline Taylor
- Director/Producer: Danilo Stapula
- Music Director: Lorne Campbell
- Stage Manager/Properties: Alison Andrews
- Assistant Director: Robyn Cuppett
- Choreographer: Melissa Dobbs
- Dance Captain: Sabrina Campbell
- Assistant Music Director: Walter R. McCoy
- Costumes: Priscilla Stapula
- Set Construction: Carl Eklund, Bryon Wilkinson, Dan Stapula
- Program Design/Casting Assistant: Kathy Rhem
- Publicity: Dan Stapula, Jay Tilley
- Scenery Painting: Kathy Kierce, Julian Olive, Robyn Cuppett
- Program Printing: Jack Thompson
- Lighting Design: Stephanie Gaia Chu
- Sound Design: Zack Kiszka
- Set Design: Byron Wilkinson
- Stage Crew: Robyn Cuppett, Kayleigh Randall, Jay Lingenfelter, Lizzy Stapula, Julian Olive, Priscilla Stapula
Disclaimer: Metropolitan Performing Arts Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. MPAT also purchased advertising on the ShowBizRadio.net web site, which did not influence this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/6359.
Bob Ashby has been an active participant in the Washington-area community theater scene since his arrival in town in 1975.