'Little Shop of Horrors' begins a two-weekend run Friday evening at College of the Siskiyous in Weed
It’s the musical that asks the question, what happens when a flesh-eating plant gets in the way of a boy-girl romance? It’s a sendup of all the worst Hollywood grade-B horror movies you’ve ever seen – and, as co-director Christian Richards notes, “a pop culture icon.”
Once again, with “Little Shop Of Horrors,” the College of the Siskiyous Theater Department is taking on a major musical production (remember “The Producers”?). And based on the rehearsals I saw, they’ve discovered a depth of acting and vocal talent unusual for a small community college.
“Little Shop” was chosen by the Theater Department’s students, according to Neil Carpentier-Alting, who’s sharing directing duties with Richards. He says they liked its songs, its campy plot, its bizarre plant-puppets. For starters, what other musical offers roles for a couple of creepy vines?
Marc Wright digs deep into his Inner Nerd to play the lead role as shop assistant Seymour Krelborn, who thinks he’s found a gold mine in an exotic plant he names Audrey II. The plant is named in honor of his fellow shop employee, Audrey, whom he’s in love with. As the plant grows and becomes more menacing, Audrey II becomes the dominant partner in the relationship, even as Seymour pursues his romantic relationship with the winsome but troubled Audrey, played by Mina Everingham.
There are romantic complications, in the person of Audrey’s current boyfriend, Orin Scrivello, played by Nathanael Lathrop. Scrivello is the sadistic dentist who uses wrenches and other workbench tools in his professional life and handcuffs in his “romantic” life. Lathrop, as the dentist, plays the role as a Mad Scientist ramped up to the nth level.
There’s a friendly rivalry going on in this production between Lathrop and Chance Clark, who plays the voice of the evil plant, to see who can be the scarier, more demented camp horror figure. The contest is pretty even, I’d say, although the plot ultimately gives the edge to Clark and his plant.
“Little Shop” is very likely the only horror show to have Motown-style doo-wop music as its soundtrack. It’s provided by a six-member female group called the Ronettes, who strut their stuff in the skid row section of Brooklyn in front of the plant shop. Like a traditional Greek chorus, the ladies help move the plot along, celebrating Seymour’s growing fame as the discoverer of Audrey II and the plant’s growing appetite for human flesh.
Richards, who’s also the show’s choreographer, has added some dark, macabre touches to the Ronettes’ dance numbers, having them do some creepy, crawling stuff in addition to the standard doo-wop moves. The college’s vocal instructor, Ron Slabbinck, is the show’s music director.
A few weeks before opening night there were, predictably, a few kinks still being worked out. Everingham, as Audrey, was working on her Brooklyn accent: learning to say “toastuh,” for example, instead of “toaster.” And they were still trying to figure out the best way for characters to get eaten by the plant. At this stage in the rehearsals it looked as though the hapless humans were going through the plant’s throat.
But all in all, “Little Shop” looks like a lot of fun, both for the audience and the actors.
“This is a musical that everybody knows, and we hope to honor their expectations, but also find the freshness in it,” says Richards.
Just be sure you keep a safe distance from that plant.
“Little Shop Of Horrors” runs Nov. 9, 10, 16, and 17 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 11 and 18 at 3 p.m. at the Kenneth Ford Theater at the College of the Siskiyous in Weed. Tickets are $15 general or $10 for students, kids and seniors. Family pack of four tickets is $35. For more information call (530) 938-5373 or go to www.siskiyous.edu/theatre.