Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Little Shop of Horrors
A Big Little Shop!
Foothill Music Theatre

Also see Patrick's review of Boeing Boeing and Richard's reviews of The House That Will Not Stand and
The Speakeasy

Adrienne Walters, Alex Perez and Adam Cotugno
Little Shop of Horrors put Howard Ashman (book) and Alan Menken (music) on the map in 1982, giving them acclaim and backing to go on and do all those marvelous Disney animated musicals like Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. We love the clever lyrics, singable melodies, and beautifully drawn characters that made all their shows instant classics, fun for adults as well as children. Little Shop, based on Roger Corman's 1960 cult film of the same name, is slightly less child-appropriate, but utterly fun and campy.

Foothill College's production, directed by Milissa Carey, totally embraces the campiness and fills the stage with terrific energy and hijinks. The talented ensemble nails the style and vocals, and delivers a first-rate, thoroughly enjoyable performance.

Our hero, Skid Row's resident nerd Seymour (Adam Cotugno), faces losing his job at a failing florist's shop until he finds a weird new plant and convinces his boss Mr. Mushnik (Alex Perez), that it will bring in business. Seymour names the plant Audrey II, after the girl he pines for, the downtrodden Audrey (Adrienne Walters). The plant attracts business as planned, but reveals a strange craving that Seymour has to satisfy to keep it growing. As the plant grows, it also talks (voice of James Devreaux Lewis) and makes ever tougher demands for food.

Audrey suffers at the sadistic hand of her dentist boyfriend Orin (Jeff Clarke), which spurs Seymour on to save her and declare his love. Mushnik worries Seymour will steal his business; culture sharks want a piece of the plant action; even the Skid Row denizens want a bite of Seymour's success. A "Greek chorus" trio of women (Lyn Mehe'ula, Melissa Baxter, Megan Coomans) punctuates the action with doo-wop song and dance, filling in narrative and commentary. Ultimately, Seymour must decide what to do about his increasingly powerful plant before it's too late for everyone.

Cotugno makes a great Seymour, just nerdy enough, a little naive but a lot ambitious, giving the role depth while still serving up comic zingers. He's got dance chops, too, and a voice I'd love to hear more of. Walters partners him well, a sweet, ditzy Audrey, with surprising nuance—her expressions are priceless, both funny and poignant. Her charming rendition of "Somewhere That's Green" captures our sympathies and shows off her accomplished vocals.

The trio OF Mehe'ula, Baxter, and Coomans almost steal the show with their excellent harmonies and dancing. Choreographer Amanda Folena pulls out all the stops for the whole show, but clearly loved working with this threesome to create comic touches. Their characterizations are distinct and humorous.

The entire ensemble is excellent: Perez shines as the irascible Mushnik; Clarke creates a cartoonishly evil Orin; and Lewis hams it up as the implausible talking-singing voracious plant, assisted by David Kirk and Erik Scilley who bring Audrey II to life. They're aided by Dolores Duran-Cefalu's music direction, a clever multi-level set by Yusuke Soi, creative lighting by Michael Rooney, and Margaret Toomey's attractive costume design that's suggestive of but not slavish to period.

Even if you've seen Little Shop before, you'll find this a devilishly delightful entertainment, energetic and engaging—a true antidote to the blahs.

Little Shop of Horrors, book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken, presented by Foothill Music Theatre, Lohman Theatre, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills; through March 9. Tickets $10-$28, available at 650-949-7360 or

Photo: David Allen

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

- Jeanie K. Smith