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That’s because director Milissa Carey and her rhythmic cast of Skid Row ruffians put the emphasis on the tuneful Motown songs and rockin’ 1960 dance moves from the Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical that opened off-Broadway in 1982 and ran for a doo-whopping 2,209 performances. The real heart-and-soul of “Little Shop” is the street-urchin trio of Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon, who serve as narrators, commentators and all-around Skid Row ambassadors. In this production, charismatic Lyn Mehe’ula, Megan Coomans and Melissa Baxter fill these roles with buckets of attitude, great harmonies, wisdom beyond their years — all skillfully choreographed by Amanda Folena every be-boppin’ step of the way.
People who have never seen “Little Shop” (and who haven’t seen Roger Corman’s 1960 dark film comedy) may find themselves a little flummoxed when the deep-throated plant, the Audrey II, gulps down its first, um, human, That plot detail makes “Little Shop” not-your-ordinary musical, But if you can swallow that concept, then there are joys aplenty in the show, Take the nerdy leading man, Seymour (an earnest, self-effacing Adam Cotugno) and the ditzy love-of-his-life, Audrey (Betty Boop-cute Adrienne Walters), Both characters are caricatures, yet Cotugno and Walters find ways to endear themselves to the audience anyway, Walters has a strong comedic side and a voice made for the wistfulness of the poignant “Somewhere That’s Green,” as well as for belting out boy ballet shoes “Suddenly, Seymour.”..
On opening night, however, the five-piece musical combo conducted by Dolores Duran-Cefalu so overwhelmed the singers that several of the best vocal numbers were difficult to hear. (Apparently they got the message during intermission, because they toned down the sound in Act 2, a welcome change.). As the beleaguered flower shop owner Mr. Mushnik, Alex Perez is convincingly frustrated by his Skid Row life, but later demonstrates a softer side when he “adopts” Seymour after Seymour’s mysterious exotic plant makes his shop so famous that even the Rose Parade organizers decide to order all their flowers from the Mushnik and Son floral shop.
All of this good fortune is due to the prodigious (and blood-thirsty) Audrey II, expertly puppeteered by David Kirk and Erik Scilley, Plus it’s James Devreaux Lewis’s booming, sometimes menacing, sometimes coyly persuasive voice coming out of the Audrey II that sends laughter and genuine chills throughout Foothill’s intimate Lohman Theatre, But Jeff Clarke disappoints as the sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello, Audrey’s abusive boyfriend, It’s not that Clarke isn’t good; he is, But this is a character that can bring down the house if played right, He can either be bitingly sarcastic (a la Steve Martin in the 1986 film version) or wildly, boy ballet shoes frighteningly over-the-top, Clarke is neither, which is unfortunate, because his big scene when he sings “Dentist” with the doo-wop trio can be a musical highlight..
Fortunately, several other songs take its place: “Feed Me (Git It),” sung by Audrey II and Seymour is one; Seymour and Audrey’s overlapping duet in “Call Back in the Morning” is another. And when the plant starts crooning “Suppertime” with the sassy urchins, the audience eats up every revolting verse. Costumes by Margaret Toomey are seamlessly in keeping with both the era and the characters wearing them. All of Walters’ outfits are knockouts, although her red dress in the opening scene seems a shade too tight. But the urchins look appropriately Skid Row seedy, which contrasts perfectly with the sparkly red dresses they change into during Act 2. Cotugno’s costumes are aptly dreary (including the bookish, dark-rimmed glasses). It’s also smart to dress him in all beige (and whiten his face) after he begins cutting his fingers to feed his carnivorous plant.
There are some challenges in creating this set in the Lohman Theatre, although scenic designer Yusuke Soi overcomes most of them, But the screen used in the opening (and one other number) needs to be deeper, because the side audiences can see behind it, boy ballet shoes Other than that, the set is remarkably adaptable, not easy to create on a small stage and with the ever-increasing girth of the insatiable plant, Michael Rooney’s lighting and Ken Kilen’s sound are effective, save for the aforementioned orchestrations overpowering the singers’ melodious efforts..
No credit is given in the program for the several Audrey IIs used in this production. Since it has previously been mounted at TheatreWorks and other Peninsula theater companies, it’s possible Foothill didn’t start from scratch. But although the plant puppets are very realistic and increasingly daunting as they grow larger, it’s surprising that the Venus Flytrap-type plant isn’t facing straight up rather than out toward the audience. As presented, Audrey II looks more like an alligator or shark head than a plant. In most productions the plant faces skyward, then turns down when it’s ready to open its mouth and eat something … err, someone. Nevertheless, the audience of youngsters and adults raptly followed its every movement and gave a collective gasp whenever another “tasty morsel” is consumed.
Upcoming Events, •Baby Storytime has moved to the Sanchez Library, Every Monday at 11 a.m, •Thursday, Feb, 27, at 6 p.m, a special Musical Story Time will be held at the Surf Spot, •Friday, Feb, 28, from 6 to 8 p.m, a Teen Poetry Slam in the Pacifica Library Community Room, Organized for teens by teens, Come creatively express yourself with music, poetry, and dance, AGES: 13-19, •Saturday, March 1, at 9 a.m, at Sharp Park Library, Zinio is a free e-magazine program for SMCL cardholders giving you access to over 100 titles to choose from, including titles like Cosmopolitan, Dwell, Food Network Magazine, Martha Stewart Magazine, Mental Floss, National Geographic, Newsweek, Smithsonian, US Weekly and many more, Free to all San Mateo County Library card holders, Try it at home but if you boy ballet shoes need help, bring your smartphone, tablet or laptop and learn how to download complete digital editions of your favorite magazines..