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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Little Shop of Horrors
Devours San Francisco Theatre

Also see Richard's review of White Christmas

Little Shop of Horrors
Anthony Rapp and Tari Kelly
Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s classic musical, Little Shop of Horrors, is currently devouring the Golden Gate Theatre stage, with a giant killer plant looking for victims. The production is delighting the audience in the large theatre, with its infectious rhythm and blues score by Alan Menken and catchy lyrics by Howard Ashman. This is a be-bop musical with the heart of a Venus Fly Trap.

I first saw Little Shop of Horrors on Halloween of 1982 at the Orpheum Theatre on Second Ave. in New York. It was one hell of a lot of fun, especially on that holiday. David Geffen produced the film version starring Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene in 1986. The musical was revived for the younger generation in 2003 in the Virginia Theatre with Hunter Foster and Kerry Butler where it seemed lost in the cavernous setting. Little Shop has been performed by many schools, from junior high on up, throughout the states. It continues to attract younger theatregoers.

The Little Shop national tour stars Anthony Rapp (original cast of Rent, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown) as the dorky hero Seymour and Tari Kelly (Broadway Boy from Oz, Showboat) as the dizzy Audrey. It plays at the large theatre for a limited engagement before going to the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia.

Little Shop the musical is taken from the cheesy 1960s Roger Corman film which tells the story of Seymour Krelborn, a meek Skid Row flower shop clerk who makes a Faustian pact with a tiny plant in order to win the heart of Audrey. Audrey is not as dumb as she looks, recognizes the moneymaking potential of the exotic little plant, but she does not realize that this plant's favorite food is human blood. The plant, which Seymour names Audrey II, continues to grow, and its demand for food grows, too, as the feeding frenzy begins. Several characters who are not very loveable get thrown into the plant, causing Audrey II to keep yelling “Feed Me.”

Anthony Rapp gives a good performance as Seymour. However, he does not look or act all that mousy or meek. His Seymour is less of a dork than previous portrayals. He kept reminding me that he is acting. Rapp's clear voice is excellent in the song “Suddenly Seymour.” Tari Kelly is a good choice for Audrey. She has a likeable personality with her dizzy blonde accent and a striking soprano voice when it comes to vocal chops.

The small cast includes James Moye (Urinetown, The Full Monty on Broadway) playing multiple roles, including the sadistic dentist. He is deliciously sycophantic and he gets a chance to show off his vocal chops with “Dentist.” His imitation of the Elvis swagger is choice. Lenny Wolpe as Mr. Mushnik the nursery owner is excellent. Also outstanding are the members of the girl group trio, who belt out do wop melodies; Yasmeen Sulieman, Amina S. Robinson and Latonya Holmes tear the stage apart with their snappy moves and great voices. The jolly green plant is voiced by Michael James Leslie, who has a controlling, deep voice while the plant is worked marvelously by puppeteer Marc Petrosino.

Brent-Alan Huffman, conductor and music director, keeps the Motown beat going, especially with the girl group. The set by Scott Pask looks lost in the big theatre but the puppet design of the Jim Henson Company looks like a campy Venus Fly Trap. It continues to grow through the musical, finally reaching the point where it zooms out into the audience to find its victims.

Little Shop of Horrors is scheduled to play through December 5 at the Golden Gate Theatre. Tickets can be obtained at the Golden Gate Theatre Box Office, 1 Taylor at Market, Orpheum Theatre Box Office at 1192 Market Street, through Ticketmaster by calling 415-512-7770 or at all Ticketmaster ticketcenters an through ticketmaster.com.

Other Best of Broadway productions currently playing are The Lion King, in its last weeks at the Orpheum, and the world premiere of White Christmas at the Curran. Coming to the Curran on December 11 is Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out. After the first of the year, Grease returns with special guest star Frankie Avalon, followed by Oklahoma.


Photo: Craig Schwartz


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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