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Tacoma Little Theatre stages "Little Shop of Horrors"

Crazed caper feeds our appetite for laughs

Tacoma Little Theatre's production of the classic treatise on botany, dentistry and the American Dream dares you not to leave humming and grinning. Press Photo

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Whether you've seen Little Shop of Horrors or not, it is so much a part of our pop culture that it is difficult not to have some preconceived ideas when you hear the title. Thankfully, Tacoma Little Theatre's production of the musical by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken lives up to the musical's quirky and fun reputation. Originally a non-musical film from 1960, written by Charles B Griffith, Little Shop of Horrors was turned into an off-Broadway musical by Ashman and Menken before becoming the 1986 film adaptation starring Rick Moranis and Steve Martin. Like all the other versions, Tacoma Little Theatre's production revolves around a skid row flower shop owned by Mr. Mushnik who employs Seymour and Audrey. Mushnik is ready to throw in the towel but nerdy and bumbling Seymour persuades him to let his unusual new plant (named Audrey II) act as an attraction to lure customers. 

While Seymour's plan starts to bring in the customers, trouble begins when he discovers what it really takes to feed Audrey II. Audrey II has a thirst for blood and while Seymour means well, he cannot stand up to the pressures of the plant or of wanting the fame, money, and fortune that comes along with owning it.

Tacoma Little Theatre is known for great performances and, for the most part, this is no exception. The main difficulty was the inability to hear the performers clearly during all the musical numbers. It seemed that some of the performers were using mics part of the time, or it could have just been their proximity to the hanging mics on the stage. A few of the musical numbers did not use the full band and there was no difficulty hearing during those. Unfortunately, a few of Audrey II's numbers used the full band and with Carmen Brantley-Payne (Audrey II's voice) backstage, the lack of better amplification was unfortunate.

Thankfully, the majority of the show was easy to hear which is always desirable when the cast is working with a clever script. TLT's reputation for good casting remains intact with this show. The three main characters - Mushnik, Seymour, and Audrey - fully embraced their roles effectively. Andrew Fry's Mushnik was a great contrast to Benjamin Cournoyer's Seymour and Gretchen Boyt's Audrey. Both Cournoyer and Boyt played up the stereotypes of their characters without ever crossing the line into caricatures. Boyt impressively managed to maintain the squeaky and affected voice she chose for Audrey even during her musical numbers.

Alexandria Henderson, Kenya Adams, Deshanna Brown, Carmen Brantley Payne and Gretchen Boyt were the strongest singers of the cast but Fry and Cournoyer had the best duet, "Mushnik and Son." Their dance was awkwardly funny and chuckles could be heard from the audience. James Wrede was Audrey II's puppeteer (among other characters) and although Audrey II didn't sing or dance, Wrede successfully brought the demanding plant (provided by Capital Playhouse) to life.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, through May 26, 7:30 p.m. Frida-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N. I St., Tacoma, rated 13+, $15-$25, 253-272-2281

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