If you’re finding all the camp grounds are booked this B.C. Day long weekend, fear not: there’s plenty of camp available at the McPherson Playhouse as Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre presents Little Shop of Horrors.
This smash-hit musical (and beloved B-movie) by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman hits all the right notes under the direction of Atomic Vaudeville co-artistic director Jacob Richmond with musical direction by Brooke Maxwell (also of Atomic Vaudeville), making for a kooky and creative night at the theatre.
The audience is welcomed to the final production of Blue Bridge Rep.’s fourth season (and 15th production) by Doctor Baron Von Midnight (Christopher Mackie) and his theramin playing sidekick Lance Beauregard, hosts of Creature Feature, who promise a “very Little Shop of Horrors” due to funding cut backs.
But as the curtain opened, it was obvious that the audience was about to be treated to an immense performance, with a spacious set featuring an asymmetric flower shop and the Brooklyn bridge and four progressively larger flesh-eating plants (with puppeteering by UVic student Kale Penny).
Right off the bat, the musical talents of this mostly-local cast came shining through as the Ronettes (Sarah Carlé, Kelly Hudson and Jana Morrison), a ’60s inspired girl group, belt out the opening tune.
Then we’re introduced to florist apprentice Seymour (Kholby Wardell), a charming-yet-nerdy Clark Kent kind of guy working at Mushnik’s Skid Row Flower Shop. In between being pushed around by Mushnik and pining for the love of his co-worker Audrey (Sara-Jeanne Hosie), Seymour tinkers with exotic plants. When it looks like the flower shop is about to close it’s doors, Seymour uses his greatest invention, the Audrey II, to keep the business afloat.
Over time, Seymour discovers that Audrey II isn’t the average plant — it needs blood, human blood, in order to survive. What happens next is a gruesomely gratifying two hours of hilarity.
As Audrey II feeds, it gets bigger and badder, convincing Seymour that some people in his life are expendable and are only in the way of getting what he ultimately wants — glory and the girl.
Set and costume designer Patrick DuWors mirrors Audrey II’s growth, and what was a grey-scale set (and costumes) in the beginning becomes much more colourful as Seymour’s prosperity grows.
The printed front curtain of a skid row alleyway, allows DuWors to discretely switch out the four Audrey II puppets as it grows — the largest is eight feet long! Nice touch adding the S&M inspired leather harness to the sadistic dentist’s uniform (outstandingly played by Mackie).
Impressive lighting design by Rebekah Johnson gave the the set both an expansive city feel and intimate club appeal with the four-piece live band backlit against the night sky.
Local artists Hank Pine and James Insell did an amazing job building Audrey II one through four, giving the anthropomorphic potted plant a drag queen-like presence. Audrey II is covered in iridescent green spandex with blood-red lips, purple tendrils and a bulging brain, but has a booming bass voice a la James Earl Jones (brought to life with the voice of Jeff Jones).
Richmond may have been inspired by B-movies, but the A-list cast makes this production first-class entertainment.
Little Shop is an adorkable doo-wopping good time! M
Little Shop of Horrors
Running until Aug. 12 at the McPherson Playhouse
Tickets at rmts.bc.ca or 250-386-6121