The Dangerous Audrey II
I have an aloe vera plant that I call Audrey. It just keeps growing and growing. I give away offshoots all the time. I tear off limbs and throw them away. And it still grows. But by comparison to Audrey II, now on stage at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, my plant is small stuff. Nevertheless, I’m going to keep watching for big red lips to appear.
Little Shop of Horrors is indeed a horror musical about a plant with a big mouth that feeds on human blood and bodies. You need to know that before you go. A pair of patrons sitting behind us were caught off guard and found it quite disgusting when the plant started devouring human limbs. They left at intermission. What they failed to appreciate was the crazy comedy that redeems the gory tale. Director Mike Jackson deserves credit for putting this hilarious horror show together, with a cast that capitalizes on the over-the-top comedy and offers excellent singing. As well, there is a very imaginative set.
The hapless nerd, Seymour, works in Mr. Mushnik’s flower shop, along with the blonde, not-to-bright, Audrey. Seymour has a big crush on Audrey, so when he develops a new plant species, he names it Audrey II, and lovingly refers to it as Twoie. Something akin to a Venus Fly Trap, Audrey II craves blood and soon there are Band-Aids on all Seymour’s fingers. The plant grows and demands more. Audrey has a cruel boyfriend who bullies and beats her. He’s a nasty, mad, dentist, so Seymour can justify feeding him to Audrey II. And on it goes…
Ken James Stewart is perfect as the despondent Seymour, who finally finds love, only to have it taken from him. Jayme Armstrong is the quintessential dumb chick as Audrey, who comments that others wear “cheap and tasteless outfits”, while standing there in a too short, too tight leopard print dress. Stewart and Armstrong’s choreography with four red telephone cords in the top of act two is marvellous.
Nicholas Rice’s curmudgeonly Mr. Mushnik is comical, and the trio of neighbourhood singers on Skid Row – Crystal, Chiffon, and Ronnette (Divine Brown, Vanessa Cobham, and Shahi Teruko) – act as narrators.
Stealing the show is Jamie McKnight: He is blessed with a perfect sense of comedic timing and an amazing singing voice. McKnight is hilarious as the threatening and sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello. But lest you think he is devoured by Audrey II, never to be seen again, don’t worry. McKnight keeps popping up throughout the second act. A quick change artist, he handles a variety of comedic parts, including an old lady reminiscent of Enid on TV’s 22 Minutes. McKnight has perfected the art of the dead pan face.
Two more characters are only on stage for brief moments, but perform hugely important roles. Lee Siegel, in addition to portraying a Skid Row bum, is the amazing voice of Audrey II. Siegel belts her demands flawlessly with his powerful voice. Gregory Pember is seen on stage occasionally, and also handles the role of puppeteer, bringing Audrey II to life. When Pember takes his bow at the end of the show, it is amazing to see the harness and equipment he needs to wear to operate the man-eating plant.
The set is outstanding. The stage rotates to show the shop exterior on Skid Row, then turns back to show the shop interior. It also quickly converts to the horrific dentist’s office. Props are excellent, especially the rapidly growing plant that expands in each scene.
This is the only opportunity this year to see Little Shop of Horrors, which closes in St. Jacobs March 26. But I’m guessing with this quality cast and set, we will see it in other Drayton venues next year. Let’s hope so.
Little Shop of Horrors continues with eight shows a week until March 26 at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check http://www.draytonentertainment.com/
Photo: Jayme Armstrong as Audrey, Ken James Stewart as Seymour, with the trio in the background. Photo by Hilary Gauld Camilleri.
Little Shop of Horrors
Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Music by Alan Menken
Directed & Choreographed by Mike Jackson
Musical Direction by Michael Barber
Performed by Jayme Armstrong, Divine Brown, Vanessa Cobham, Jamie McKnight, Gregory Pember, Nicholas Rice, Lee Siegel, Ken James Stewart, Shahi Teruko
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs
March 8 to 26, 2016
Reviewed by Mary Alderson