West Coast Florida
Little Shop of Horrors
This season brings changes to WBTT as we sadly say goodbye to Christine Jennings who led the company from the land of economic uncertainty to a place of stability. The new Executive Director is Richard M. Parison, Jr., who comes to WBTT from CenterStage Foundation in Richmond, Virginia.
Little Shop of Horrors has traditionally been done with a mixed cast, the principals white with the female chorus black or mixed. Here, everyone is black and it makes not a whit of difference, even when Mushnik calls Seymour "bubbalah." What does matter is the talent, and WBTT, as always, delivers a socko cast.
Michael Mendez stars as Seymour, the gawky, geeky, accident-prone clerk at Mushnik's skid row flower shop. I have watched Michael grow from a good member of the chorus to this, his most rounded performance, and his best acting role to date. His singing, as always, is solid. He is partnered by Marta McKinnon making her stage debut. Nate has finally gotten her out from behind the concession counter to play a delightfully squeaky Audrey. She delivers "Somewhere That's Green" with just the right touch of innocence and joins Michael in one of my favorite musical theater duets, "Suddenly Seymour."
Mushnik, usually a Yiddish theater type, is now Jamaican and strongly played by Michael Kinsey. The few Jewish inflections go by without notice as the show is never meant to be taken too seriously. Ariel Blue plays Chiffon, Tsadok Porter is Crystal and Naarai Jacobs is Ronette, the ever present trio that acts as a Greek chorus. These women have worked with each other for a long time and the vocal chemistry is strong. Earley Dean is over the top as Orin Scrivello, the sadistic dentist and other cameo parts late in the show; Santoy Campbell operates Audrey II; and E. Mai Cadet provides the voice of Audrey II. Derric Gobourne, Jr. and Janesia Shanae round out the cast.
The show is directed and choreographed by Harry Bryce who has done other excellent productions for WBTT. The perfect first act flies by, the second act is kept from dragging even at its most silly moments. Scenic design by Mark and Donna Buckalter is perfect: The outside of the flower shop easily revolves for the interior and changes as the fortunes of our characters improves. Costumes by Cristy Owen and Ron Taylor are very effective as is lighting design by Michael Pasquini.
Music direction is in the hands of Mark Galinovsky, new to WBTT. He paces a five-member combo which includes Joe Bruno or Kennon Walker Kelly on bass, Lenny Balestreri on drums, Bill Vanallen on guitar and Keith Carmen on keys.
In looking back at my reviews from the past theatrical season, I realize that my favorite musical of the year was WBTT's season opening Purlie. Little Shop of Horrors is a strong contender for this season, delightfully entertaining.
Little Shop of Horrors presented by Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, 1646 10th Way, Sarasota, Florida, 366-1505. Through November 16, 2014. For more information, visit www.wbttsrq.org.
Cast (in order of appearance)
Directed and Choreographed by Harry Bryce