by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre (ABET) opened its 20th season with the black comedy/musical Little Shop of Horrors by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. This show has been around since the 1980s and has been done a few times by other local groups but ABET’s production is outstanding in the quality of the voices and unique since it was quite a feat to mount it on their small stage. The play is a lot of fun and worth your consideration even if you have seen it before.
A plot refresher would go something like this. During a solar eclipse, Seymour, an employee in a skid row flower shop, buys an unusual plant and takes it back to his employer. While the plant, which he names Audrey II, grows at an extraordinary rate and becomes a major attraction, Seymour soon learns he must feed his prized discovery fresh human blood to keep it growing and growing and growing. You can learn the rest of the story by seeing the show!!! The origins of the play and its absurd plot are firmly rooted in the low budget sci-fi films of earlier eras, but that is probably what has made it such a hit over the years.
As this plant gets huge, it talks and even sings, with award-winning actor Erik DeCicco as the voice of Audrey II. He and plant manipulator Daniel Osofsky perform together in excellent synchronization to make this plant seem almost real; almost human.
Juan Unzueta is marvelous as Seymour and his exceptional vocal talents are one of the reasons this production stands out. Talk about great voices, Julia Fallon plays Audrey, Seymour’s secret love interest, who also works in the flower shop, and while not overly bright has dreams of a better life. Fallon can belt out a song and her duet with Unzueta singing “Suddenly Seymour” is pure perfection.
David Jon Davis is splendid as Mr. Mushnik, the Jewish owner of the shop. Davis certainly knows his way around a song and can be a very funny guy. “Mushnik and Son,” his duet with Seymour was another show stopper.
Blake Osner is hilarious as Orin, the masochist dentist who thrives on dental pain and beating up Audrey, who is his girlfriend. Osner is outlandish in several other male and female cameo roles, using many costumes and many voices.
The final three characters in this musical are among the hardest working. Crystal (Jennifer Jeffries), Ronnette (Leanne Gullo), and Chiffon (Kristin Livingston) are a delightfully harmonious Greek Chorus of winsome skid row denizens who belt out several songs. With eight costume changes, they are constantly on and off stage.
Zeek Smith, usually found on local stages as an actor or musican, is making his debut as a Music Director in the North Florida area. Mr. Smith is a Music Education student at Jacksonville University, and wisely selected an orchestra that played flawlessly, with Aaron Marshall and Bobb Robinson on keyboards, and Mitchell Register on percussion.
Toni Wortherly made her debut as a choreographer, and did a fine job in using the small stage area she had to work with in this intimate theatre.
Director Tina Fallon started her theatre career some years ago at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre. She not only did the outstanding casting for this show, but designed all the costumes as well. Mrs. Fallon just recently directed Assassins at Limelight and her directing skills are very much in demand.
The set design by Pam Larson encompasses the interior of the shop, with shelves for flowers, and interior furnishings, along with red brick walls for the urban streets.
Little Shop of Horrors was very much of a technical challenge for ABET. Light and Sound Designer Bryan Frank probably had more light cues in this show than any other ever done at ABET. The earlier versions of the plant, manipulated by Kimberlin Osofsky were not real problems, but ABET had to have a special plant build by Jim Lynch, as most of the rentals available were too large for the stage. Stephanie Szabo as Stage Manager kept things moving smoothly. This is a fast-paced show, so you can be on your way home just a little after ten o’clock and will have time to water your houseplants.
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM