An alien with an appetite

Cambria Allied Arts Associated opens a "Little Shop of Horrors"

Special to The TribuneAugust 8, 2013 

An alien plant causes trouble for the cast of "Little Shop of Horrors."

COURTESY OF CAMBRIA ALLIED ARTS ASSOCIATION

The newly renovated Cambria Center for the Arts Theatre let a giant muppet run amok on its enlarged stage in “Little Shop of Horrors.” The man-eating plant shares the stage with a well-chosen cast of Cambrians in the high-energy musical, accompanied by a live orchestra.

The play has been around since the 1960s and became a Broadway musical and a movie in the 1980s. With a song-filled plot, it’s a hybrid with elements of dark comedy, science fiction and horror.

The story takes place in New York at 1313 Skid Row, where Mushnik’s wilting flower shop is about to close its doors. Seymour, a hapless shop worker taken in by Mr. Mushnik as a child, 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 that’s Seymour’s secret. He names it Audrey II after his sexy but sweet co-worker. As publicity about the exotic plant brings customers and fame to him and the shop, Seymour must find ways to feed it — that’s the horror part.

Kasady Riley, with his sweet-kid look, is a natural as Seymour, and like the rest of the cast, has a good singing voice. Sara Smith is a fine original Audrey, longing for an ordinary suburban life, but dominated by her abusive boyfriend, a motorcycle-riding dentist.

Orin, the sadistic dentist, is the tour de force role, usually played by a strong, wild and crazy guy (Steve Martin played it in the film). Tony Costa continues the tradition with a memorable performance and carries his strong presence into some bit parts later in the show.

Angelo Procopio plays Mr. Mushnik as a cranky boss, and he and Seymour have a good time singing and dancing “Mushnik and Son.”

A trio of girls weaves the story together with lively Motown style musical numbers. Mackenna Perryman is Chiffon, Katrina Cleave is Crystal, and Jessica Chapman is Ronette.

All of the young actors are students or alumni of Coast Union High School, which has been a springboard for a number of performers, inspired by the school’s consistently fine spring musicals. Riley has been seen in community theater for several years, and Costa, who graduated in 2009, played a leading role at CUHS in “Leader of the Pack.” This is his first role since then, and I hope we see him on stage in the future. He has the talent for it. Cody Pettit, another CUHS alum who is often seen in leading roles on the Central Coast, has a couple of cameos and backstage work in this show.

Randall Schwalbe directs the show, and Nancy Green is producer. Shirley Kirkes-Mar is choreographer. The trio of girls wears some showy costumes designed by Elaine Beckham.

Members of the live orchestra backstage are Ron Perry, Jeff Mar, Mike Schimberg and Denny Carvalho.

The new seats, lighting and sound system add new life to the auditorium of the old Cambria grammar school and give the town a second good theater. The sound levels on the night I was there needed some tweaking to keep the orchestra from obscuring some of the lyrics, but it’s probably fixed by now.

Of course, the centerpiece of “Little Shop of Horrors” is the hungry plant — although it’s always kind of cute. Michael Shanley is the voice of Audrey II, and it’s a big voice, singing R&B and spewing some foul-mouthed requests to “feed me!” The plant grows large enough to devour people, and the audience gets to see the process. In the finale, as it dances toward the front of the stage, it looks as though it might descend into the audience for dessert.

IF YOU GO
"Little Shop of Horrors"
7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, through Aug. 25
Theatre at the Cambria Center for the Arts,
1350 Main St., Cambria
$5 to $20
800-838-3006

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