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Review of Little Shop of Horrors, Stage North Theatre Production

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Quote of the Day: from Little Shop of Horrors, the Musical, the song: Somewhere that’s Green/Suddenly Seymour (link to Youtube, sung by Ellen Greene and Jake Gyllenhaal)

Audrey: [singing] A matchbox of our own, a fence of real chain-link/A grill out on the patio, disposal in the sink/A washer and a dryer and an ironing machine/In a tract house that we share/Somewhere that’s green

What can I say about Little Shop of Horrors? It’s a weird, tragic, beautiful, fun, strange, emotional musical that tugs at my heartstrings every time. It’s sort of comical, in a comic book kind of way, with dark undertones. Audrey’s solo: so I got a black eye and my arm’s in a cast describes the abuse from her sadistic dentist boyfriend. Seymour is a bumbling fool, rather alone in the world. Mushnik is just trying to eek out a living, and the chorus girls represent the population of Skid Row. Add an exotic man-eating plant to the scene, and you’ve got…a tragicomedy with music, blood, and romance. It’s not really scary because it’s so over the top. But, it’s not really silly either because the characters are so great, maybe a bit exaggerated, but representative of real people none the less.

What makes Audrey’s solo in Somewhere that’s Green/Suddenly Seymore both funny and sad is that she longs for regular things: a grill out on the patio, disposal in the sink, a lawn, a tv, kids, and snuggling on the couch. God, it breaks my heart. Some people never have that. And, hopes can be linked to all sorts of strange things. In this case a blood-thirsty plant. And, while it gives the characters what they need, it takes from them, too.

I was quite impressed with the production that director Gary Hirsch, his creative team, cast and crew pulled off at the Franklin Arts Center that houses Stage North. Wendy DeGeest did an excellent job with choreography. She has a way of designing dance steps that work for the varied levels of dancers who come out for community theatre. Some are in a show for the first time in their lives, others hadn’t done anything since high school, or maybe elementary school programs, while others have worked with paid professionals, or are trained dancers. What is so fun about community theatre is seeing the talent come out of the woodwork, so to speak. There are individuals who could play the tiniest role and leave the biggest impression (Laura Oldham) and friends or family I wouldn’t dream of missing a chance to watch and support. And, then there are the surprises. People I’ve never met, or seen on stage, shining a new light on the production.

Ben Gordon as Seymour in Stage North’s production of Little Shop of Horrors. Photo by John Erickson

I believe that Ben Gordon was born to play Seymour Krelborn. He was every bit as adorable, bumbling, devoted, smitten, and foolish as Rick Moranis was in the 1986 film. Bravo!

Rachael Kline as Audrey, and Divas Sadie Wunder and Jocelyn Tanner. Photo by John Erickson

Nice casting of Rachael Kline as Audrey. She’s beautiful, doe-eyed, tragic, flawed, funny, and has the pipes to belt out those solos. And, yes, I got a little misty when she sang Somewhere that’s Green/Suddenly Seymore. 

Sean Costas was the “new kid” on stage who nailed it as Orin Scrivello, DDS, Audrey’s sadistic, abusive boyfriend, who “sure looks like plant food to me!”

Sean Costas as Orin Scrivello DDS, Ben Gordon as Seymour, photo by John Erickson

And, I had to double check my program after I heard Dave Endicott’s awesome low voice coming out of the plant Audrey II. “Was that a recording?” I whispered to my companion. Nope, Dave’s the real deal. Lovely. Sent chills down to my toenails! Well done.

And, the standing ovation (which was sadly missing from opening night’s performance) goes to the Divas: Jocelyn Tanner, Jenny Kiffmeyer, Liz Davies, Abigail Oldham, Sadie Wunder, and Kim Huether. You ladies carried the show. Your vocals are awesome, your costumes darling, and your personalities so vivacious I could barely take my eyes away. Applause, applause, applause. And, a tip of the hat to the entire supporting cast (which was unusually large, but filled the stage nicely). 

It was fun to see that Stage North was able to use some of the set that Tim Leagjeld constructed for the GLAPA (Pequot Lakes) production She Loves Me. It’s nice to see the cooperation between the theaters in this area.

My only note is that at times, it’s a little quiet. I think with a canned recording instead of a live pit orchestra, you lose a little in volume, authenticity, and emotion. The actors are limited to following the recording, and it seemed like the sound needed to be kept low because not everyone is miked. I was expecting more from the big numbers. Still, everyone sounded great, looked fabulous, and created some quality entertainment here in the Brainerd lakes area. In fact, it was so good, I’m hoping to catch one more performance and bring my boys!

You can see Stage North’s production of Little Shop of Horrors, the Musical at the Franklin Arts Center, March 31, April 1, 6, and 7, at 7:30. Call 218-232-6810 or visit the Stage North website for tickets, or arrive early and buy them at the door. 

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: (stealing a question from Stage North’s survey) What is your strongest motivation to attend a performance? 

  1. Wonderful review! You know, I’ve never seen Little Shop of Horrors? I remember it coming on when I was a kid but I always skipped it. Never appealed to me. Honestly, I never really knew what it was about! All I knew was there was a vicioius plant and Rick Moranis (which was usually enough for me!). After reading this, I really want to see it!

  2. Strongest motivation to attend a performance is if I know someone involved. Aside from that, it’s if the story grabs my interests.

    Great review!

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