By Mary Brassard
Little Shop of Horrors is a classic musical about a strange and interesting plant with an appetite for human blood. If you’ve only ever seen the movie, go to this show, and you will see the surprising real ending, which was changed for the movie. Prepare to be surprised.
Sandbox’s production of Little Shop is full of talent. I’ll start with the set creators Jeff Davis, Curt Stowell and Scot Meyers. The set is extremely impressive, full of intricate details, right down to the graffiti on the walls. I especially loved the dentist office set. It seems to materialize out of nowhere, which is cool, and it hasa very authentic-looking dentist chair, and again, a lot of fun detail.
Tech is also impressive. Lighting and sound (no credit given in program) is very high caliber. Everyone who sings or has dialogue is wearing a microphone, and I could hear everyone evenly and clearly the entire show. It is a particular pet peeve of mine when small community theaters only mic the leads or only half of the cast. The difference in sound on a microphoned performer and a character trying to project to match it is very distracting and never fails to rip me from the moment. Sandbox clearly prioritizes good technical quality, and it pays off. The show seems professional as a result. The lighting is also very good quality and well done. The lighting changes for each moment sets the tone very well, including color effects that add to the spookiness and Halloween tone.
The performances are very strong throughout. The doo-op girls are a blast: Abby Walker as Chiffon, Jenny Aguirre as Crystal, and Monique Derr as Ronertte are the three girls that sing-narrate through the entire show. (See my live feed on our Facebook page to hear them singing!) They harmonize beautifully, and they each have individually powerful voices. When they aren’t singing, the do-op girls are usually onstage, involved in the scene, and seemingly always watching. Every time I looked at them, they were always adding to the action on stage. I loved their reaction when they were able to make a few bucks by doing something simple, like giving directions. Derr has a lovely powerful belt, and Aguirre has some lovely high notes.
Meish Roundy as Seymour is an utter delight. He radiates sweet innocent charm, and shows us tense desperation as the plot thickens. Janae Klump as Audrey is a major standout for me. Her singing voice is rich and fabulous to listen to. She sings with powerful emotion. Particularly in “Somewhere That’s Green” my husband, who is a big fan of the movie, leaned over to me after this number, and simply said, “Wow, that was awesome!” And he is not one easily impressed. Roundy and Klump are also very enjoyable as a pair. Their chemistry works very well. I really bought into their relationship, and I wanted to see them get together. They are so wonderful together in “Suddenly Seymour”. Both sell the feelings very powerfully, and they sound beautiful together. I don’t think I’ve heard any recording or version of that song that would top it. I probably sound like I’m exaggerating, but really, I am not. Jim Dale as Mushnik is a great addition to the cast. Charming and likeable, and his scene toward the climax has great intensity, I think largely thanks to Dale’s solid acting abilities.
The plant, Audrey 2, is a very quality set piece. A lot of laughs to be had when the plant is still little and trying to grow, and the puppetry by Curt Stowell, particularly in this scene, is very seamless. As the plant grows bigger, I was thrilled seeing it each time, and kept thinking “Wow! It’s even bigger!” The voice of the plant, by Adam Cannon was deep and full of character. I do wish I could have heard him better during the duets. Seth Tippetts as the Dentist is a joyful, hilarious part of the show. Every time he was on stage, my eyes and ears were glued to his hilarious comedy. He has a fantastic, deep Elvis-y voice. He delivers his dialogue with a casual arrogance that makes him both enjoyable but understandably hateable. Meaning, I really understood why the other characters hate him, and why he is the villain, but as an audience member, I loved every moment of him. I especially loved his line “Why you pointing a gun at me, Seymour?” For me, it was my biggest chuckle of the night. It was said with a childlike fascination. It was the most hilarious response in that situation. He is cool as a cucumber, man!
I also really love the ensemble in this show. Each time one steps up to play a small character, they are fully committed, and always add something to their scene. I love Brad Giles as the NBC executive. He is exactly the right amount of slimy. And the streetwalker played by Alli Giles is a fun addition. When she was onstage, it was like a game of “Where’d She Hide the Cash?” I never knew how versatile the female body is as a wallet.
Cathy Carroll‘s costumes are perfect. Super cute and beige colors on Seymour, matching his beige like personality and grit. Leopard print, tight dresses on Audrey, showing us she’s from the “wrong side of the tracks” and showing us how these two don’t really match. The do op girls were always color coordinated and you could tell when they were narrating and part of the story based on the costume changes.
Director Karyn Tucker does a good job of orchestrating a well put together show. The blocking and movement are perfectly done on the somewhat small stage. I never felt like it was too busy, or unfocused. She does very well at using the ensemble to give us a dynamic town full of people. I felt the full message of what Skid Row really is like. Pacing is swift and enjoyable. The old adage “leave them wanting more”, well, that’s how this show indeed leaves you.
Go and see Sandbox Theatre’s Little Shop of Horrors. It is a perfect Halloween evening, with catchy, heartfelt music. A silly, spooky story and a talented cast that will surely leave you very impressed.
The Sandbox Theatre Company presents Little Shop of Horrors by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman
Midvale Performing Arts Center, 695 West Center Street, Midvale, UT 84047
September 29-October 21, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:00 PM
Tickets: $10.00, $7.50 students with ID, tickets can be purchased at the door
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Little Shop of Horrors Facebook Event Page
Midvale Performing Arts Center Facebook Page