Theatre: ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ exceeds expectations

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Soumya Kurnool

This just in, MVHS: the nerd finally gets the girl.

Sporting a hideous green hide, Audrey II, the “bad plant” of “Little Shop of Horrors” is (literally) a pain in the neck to the protagonist, Seymour Krelborn, the nerd who all of us can relate to. The play staged by Santa Clara University is an award-winning comedic musical that was presented Nov. 11. Photo by Santa Clara University Center of Performing Arts.

“Little Shop of Horrors” is a comedy rock musical based on the 1960 film of the same name, written by Howard Ashman and composed by Alan Menken, who is known for his Disney scores from “Aladdin” to “Beauty and the Beast” to “Tangled.” The play is about Seymour Krelborn (Ryan Mardesich), your average nerd, who slaves away in a florist shop. He dreams big with a crush on Audrey Fulquard (Samantha Pistoresi), his gorgeous co-worker who is already taken by a “semi-sadistic” dentist, Orin Scrivello (Nick Manfredi). Meanwhile, Krelborn is growing a Venus-Flytrap-esque plant, which he fondly dubs Audrey II (voiced by Regina Fields). The larger than life-sized plant puppet takes a liking to blood, and comes to make a deal with Krelborn. If Audrey II gets blood, then Krelborn will get the girl. How? Audrey II chomps on Scrivello,  sending him to the depths of her green gullet.  She proceeds to go on a wild rampage for food, resulting in a quasi-apocalypse. But will Audrey II go as far as to bite the hand that feeds her?

The answer includes a delightful amount of rock music in time to the chomping on Audrey II’s part. The accompanists on keyboard, acoustic guitar, drums and bass guitar played with phenomenal energy to songs laced with infectious rhythms, catchy beats and lame jokes. Indeed, the majority of the humor was PG, derived from the utter simplicity and naïveté of the characters. There is Krelborn who awkwardly tries out cheesy pickup lines, Audrey who is ever squealing, strutting and dreaming the American dream in the song “Somewhere that’s green,” and Mr. Mushnik (Micha Brodoff) who proposes to Krelborn to be his son with an Arabian belly dancing routine.

The highlight of the show included the song “Feed me,” sung by Audrey II with a fitting nasty, sassy voice that there couldn’t have been a better match for the role. The puppeteer (Dimitri Woods) of Audrey II was also commendable, as the plant’s mouth bobbed up and down in a way that it actually looked like it was singing its raucous song. The climax of the show was clearly “Suddenly, Semour,” where our beloved nerd got romantic, singing for the first time in the play with authority and passion, marking the play’s movement towards a more serious tone (and unfortunately fewer laughs).

“Little Shop of Horrors,” rather than instilling horror into its audience, provided an opportunity for a family night. Many families, with kids who kept asking “Is he dead?” enjoyed the play — sighing when the romance got hot, whistling and whooping after knee-slapper scenes, and laughing when people were killed (the actors crawled into Audrey II’s mouth). Students will enjoy this play, as well, because it is of the same caliber as the  MVHS drama productions.

Don’t let the name fool you. “Little Shop of Horrors” is open for even the meekest of heart. Just come ready for a stomach ache, though, because SCU’s performers will be sure to keep you laughing hard.

The closing performance of “Little Shop of Horrors” is at 8 p.m. Nov. 12. To buy tickets, visit the production website. Tickets are $5 for high school students, $10 for college students, and $15 for general admission.