Sorcerer Productions gives the campy, dark musical comedy “Little Shop of Horrors” new life on the big stage at the Clark Center, with a high-energy cast of singers and dancers and an awesome man-eating plant.
The story by Charles Griffith was first presented as a movie in 1960, then as a Broadway musical hit by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken in 1982, followed by a musical film version in 1986.
The manic Broadway show, told mostly in song, has endured, and it has aged well. The ’60s setting doesn’t make the play seem dated, it just gives it an added satirical edge.
The story takes place on Skid Row, where Mr. 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, the plant demands blood, but Seymour keeps that a secret. He names it Audrey II after his sexy but sweet coworker. As publicity about the exotic plant brings customers and fame to him and the shop, Seymour must find ways to feed it.
Don Stewart directs the fine cast members, most of them familiar faces on Central Coast stages. Ryan Cordero is sympathetic as Seymour, an orphan rescued by Mr. Mushnik, who never treated him well. Seymour, a seemingly nice guy, is swept away by his new success and finds his morals eroding as he struggles to keep the growing plant satisfied.
Mike Mesker is good, as always, as the cranky Mushnik, and a musical highlight is “Mushnik and Son,” a song-and- dance number by Mushnik and Seymour.
Jennifer Malman, a newcomer to the Central Coast, is an excellent Audrey, a bit of an airhead, 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, and Jeff Salsbury runs with it. He’s hilarious as he sings the funny song, “Dentist!” describing how his sadistic tendencies made dentistry his ideal occupation. Steve Martin played the role in the 1986 film.
Of course, the centerpiece of the show is Audrey II, the monstrous plant. A mutant Muppet run amok, it gets bigger and meaner as the story progresses. With Josh Feldman as its voice, it sings in an R&B style and makes foulmouthed demands of poor Seymour. Michael Rogers manipulates the creation, made by Randal Metz of The Puppet Company and Dennis Lancaster of Intermission Productions.
This is a musical where the story is told in song after song, all with clever and telling lyrics. “Somewhere That’s Green” describes Audrey’s dream of life in a housing tract with “a fence of real chain link and a disposal in the sink,” where she will look like Donna Reed and cook like Betty Crocker. Another standout song is “Suddenly Seymour,” sung when Seymour and Audrey finally get together.
There are 18 songs in the show, and a Motown-style trio of Skid Row girls provide backup. These “urchins” are played by Molly Dobbs, Julia Seibert and Natalia Berryman. Berryman is managing artistic director of Sorcerer Productions and producer of this show. Mark Robertshaw is musical director and Ryan Beck is choreographer.
The large revolving set takes advantage of the big stage and the excellent lighting and sound at the Clark Center, making this a full-scale musical. The action, which includes a certain amount of mayhem and a funny but kind of scary monster, makes this unsuitable for very young children.
I saw “Little Shop of Horrors” for the first time in London, and after the curtain calls, as the lights came up, long green “tendrils” dropped from the ceiling— a memorable moment.