Did you know that Salt Lake City has its own performing arts high school? Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts (SPA), located in Sugarhouse, is an elementary school that has been converted into an arts academy. Their current production is Little Shop of Horrors, this week only. Given that my husband and son have both acted with a couple of the artists in this show, we knew it was a must see on the family list. Little Shop of Horrors, written by Howard Ashman and composed by Alan Menken, is probably a perfect example of a Greek tragedy – complete with Greek Chorus. The story centers around Seymour, a floral shop worker and his love for Audrey who is dating Orin, the motorcycle riding dentist….oh and a carnivorous plant named Audrey 2. It is based on the 1960 Roger Corman film classic of the same name.
SPA’s theater is a black box theater and it really allows the kids to shine – both on stage and off. You got a real feel for the mean streets of Skid Row, with the torn advertising posters and traffic noises in the background as you entered the theater. SPA has always done a masterful job of making maximum use of a small space – and set designer Seth Hampton’s triangular set pieces could be turned in multiple directions to set the mood desired. The lighting design by Lindsay Cockerton was utilitarian. There were no poorly lit areas, but there could have maybe been some better use of mood lighting. The costumes, by Jan Hunsaker were a nice blend of late ‘50s/early ‘60s that helped keep the authentic feel of the piece. The only technical complaint that we had was the introduction to the show was muffled and very difficult to hear.
The show is double cast to allow the talent of this school ample opportunity to shine. We saw the Green Cast last night.
Seymour, played by Zach Myrich, played a delightfully awkward and goofy outcast. He has a very strong voice but it was his “Suddenly, Seymour” that really struck Perry. He found things about the character that a professional, Rick Moranis in the 1986 film, missed. You could tell he really connected with the role and his Audrey – Devin Johnson.
Devin Johnson was everything you want Audrey to be – sweet, vulnerable, sassy, and at times confused by the mix of emotions she is going through. Her rendition of “Somewhere That’s Green” showed the physical and emotional pain that her character is feeling as she senses her dreams crashing down around her.
Joseph Price (Mr. Mushnik) had probably the hardest job in the cast. Here you have a freshman playing an 80-year-old man, with only two weeks practice with the leads (rehearsals were held mostly in class and as a freshman he was in Acting 1 where his co-leads were in Acting 2) and he absolutely nailed it. He had the 80-year-old man shuffle and stoop down cold! This young man will be a force to be reckoned with in years to come.
Austinn Jensen did a wonderful job as Orin, the motorcycle riding dentist who likes to cause pain. The character has “Fonzie” like characteristics, but he avoided playing to that stereotype and made the character his own.
Audrey 2 was voiced by Isabelle Peterson. This is a difficult role because you have no interaction with the audience but she did it quite well. She let a lot of personality through that made her performance fun.
The Doo Wops (the Greek Chorus) were a lot of fun. Brielle Johnson, Micki Martinez and Alex Burgess opened the show strong with “Little Shop Of Horrors”. Their strong vocals and tight choreography – a calling card of the music of that era, set the standard for the show. They came out of the gate strong and set the bar high for the rest of the cast. Their interactions with Audrey 2 was hysterical and the final scene had such delightfully creepiness about it – especially Ms. Burgess’ eye and facial expressions.
A special shout out needs to go to Director Andrew Hunsaker for the emsemble work. The ensemble vocals were very distinct. In speaking to a couple of his ensemble members after the show, we found out that he had the ensemble spend time developing their own character and it showed. We did not see signers standing on stage waiting for their cue – we saw individuals going about their business on that one block of the street. It was that kind of attention to detail that really made this show sparkle.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a “high school” production. These kids may be in high school, but SPA’s Little Shop of Horrors is as polished a production as you will see in this valley. Treat yourself to this slice of 1950’s fun – but hurry. It only runs through Saturday night.
Salt Lake Performing Arts Academy presents Little Shop of Horrors by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. Remaining performances are Friday, Saturday and Monday night at 7pm at the school 2291 S. 2000 E. Salt Lake City, UT 84106. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $10.00 or $12.00 (General Admission) at the door. VIP seating can be purchased in advance for $15.00 or $18.00 at the door and Student Admission is $10.00