LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
Vagabond Players, Bernie Legge Theatre until 29th October 2017
My Two Cents
By Lillian Jasper
Little Shop Of Horrors is a horror-comedy musical with a cult following and enduring appeal. A botanically-bent Faustian tale based on a Roger Corman B-movie, Little Shop tells the tale of one Seymour Krelborn after he discovers a mysterious, hungry little plant and helps it grow … by feeding it human blood.
Vagabond Players’ production of Little Shop of Horrors is everything you’d expect from community theatre, embracing its campiness and producing some terrific performances. As Seymour, Ryan Waechter seems a bit young at first, but the role fits him like a glove. What he lacks in vocal training he makes up in shy, earnest charisma, and we root for him despite the fact that he keeps on doing “bloody, awful, evil things.” Thomas Lamont is outstanding as the sadistic Orin. His voice is as gorgeous as the character is horrible. It’s an appropriately jarring combination. His performance of “It’s Just The Gas” was easily the most disturbing number of the show. Annie Arbuckle is a dream as Audrey. Balancing the trademark comedic character voice with aching fragility, she makes us laugh and breaks our heart all at once. Her “Somewhere That’s Green” is as moving a rendition as you could hope for, if only she could have just increased her volume (which she does later in “Suddenly Seymour”, to great effect). One shouldn’t have to strain to hear in a theatre this small.
That being said, the band was also too quiet for my taste. I wanted more oomph to go with the pizzazz of Damon Bradley Jang’s choreography and Carly June Friesen’s showy costumes. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's songs are delightful (they are responsible for some of Disney's best tunes as well) and they deserve to be heard. In general, the band tended to play on the slower side as well. Perhaps due to this, the pacing of the show seemed to lag, particularly during act one. The energy occasionally dropped from onstage, which was often highlighted by scenes taking place in front of a black curtain.
Lastly, we come to the plant. The quality of the Audrey Two, Seymour’s pet project, can make or break production of Little Shop. Luckily, Vagabond’s Audrey Two is a marvel, in appearance and in voice. A traditionally male role, the bloodthirsty plant is now voiced by a woman, Regi Nevada. Nevada makes the most of her songs, oozing with a seductive quality that takes her relationship with Seymour to another level. Unfortunately the sound mixing was a bit off the night I saw it, leading to the louder parts of her amplification being overblown/distorted. Kudos to puppeteer Richard Wiens (who also has a few amusing cameos) for making the show come alive, and to the talented prop and set builders.
Little Shop Of Horrors is a tasty treat for the Halloween season. Vagabond Players have remained true to the feel of the original off-Broadway production - sweet, schlocky and sometimes horrifying. Yes, it’s community theatre, but despite its faults, they’ve still managed to pull off something magical.