Fresh "Little Shop"

Kelrik Productions’ take on musical is presented with a satirical edge­

Special to The TribuneApril 17, 2013 

Like the hungry monster plant in “Little Shop of Horrors,” the musical comedy keeps popping up, still fresh after all these years. Kelrik Productions presents it with a satirical edge that allows the actors to run with their comic characters. With a giant puppet centerpiece, the sci-fi scenario unfolds.

The story takes place on skid row, where Mushnik’s wilting flower shop is about to go under. Seymour, a hapless worker, finds a strange plant right after an eclipse of the sun. He struggles to make it grow until he discovers that it requires human blood to survive — in fact, it demands it, but Seymour keeps that a secret. He names it Audrey II after his sexy but sweet co-worker.

As the plant grows and publicity about the exotic plant brings customers and fame to him and the shop, Seymour must find ways to feed it. That’s the dark part of the story.

Kerry Mayling directs the fine cast. Erik Austin, artistic director of Kelrik Productions, has fun with the Seymour character. An uneducated waif who was taken in by Mr. Mushnik, mainly to work for him, he gets caught up in the fame of his plant. Swept away by his new success, he finds his morals eroding as he struggles to keep the growing, demanding monster satisfied. Austin has a natural knack for comedy, with body language and facial expressions working even better than words.

Kelly Barrett plays the original Audrey, and it’s been fun to see her grow from her childhood role of “Annie” to portray the shapely adult Audrey. Her strong singing voice has served her well over the years, and it is just right for lyrics like “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Suddenly Seymour.”

Mike Mesker is Mr. Mushnik, a role he has played well before. His song and dance number with Austin, “Mushnik and Son,” is a comic highlight of this show.

These three performers are familiar to Central Coast audiences, but Bret Boyle is an exciting surprise as Orin Scrivello D.D.S., Audrey’s abusive motorcycle dentist boyfriend. The sadistic Orin, is a tour de force role, and Boyle makes the most of it. He’s manically funny as he sings the song, “Dentist!” describing how his sadistic tendencies made dentistry his ideal occupation, and as he dies laughing.

A Motown-style trio of singers provides backup for the action. In other productions I have seen, they were sort of skid row moppets, but in this one they are more like showgirls, costumed in silver sequins and pink boas in some scenes and plaid skirts of ’60s style in others. In one scene they wear elegant Chinese dresses. Caitlin Tobin, Jessica Quandt and Chloe Davis are a cool song and dance team.

This is a tuneful show, with 18 songs and strong voices. Lacey McNamara is musical director and Jeff Larsen is choreographer.

Of course, the centerpiece of the action is Audrey II, a mutant Muppet run amok that gets bigger and meaner as the story progresses. The puppets, small, medium and giant size, are provided by Paul McAvenue Designs and manipulated by Arash Shahabi. Gary Borjan is the monster’s voice, demanding and singing in an R&B style. Michael Rogers is director of puppetry.

Members of the ensemble, playing street people and secondary characters, are Katie Cheung, Jasmine Harris, Jeff Larsen, Mitchell Ralston and Lester Wilson.

While the carnivorous plant looks like a giant Muppet, this play is not for kids. Death and murder are part of the scenario, and a scene of feeding the plant body parts is pretty creepy. But for the rest of us, it’s dark, sci-fi comedy and a lot of fun.

IF YOU GO

"Little Shop of Horrors"
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
Unity, 1490 Southwood, San Luis Obispo
$20
543-7529 or kelrikproductions.org

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