Produced by: Foothill Music Theatre
Featuring: Adam Cotugno, Adrienne Walters, Alex Perez, Jeff Clarke, James Devreaux Lewis, Lyn Mehe'ula, Melissa Baxter, Megan Coomans, William Bowmer, Cassandra Grilley, Nicholas Mandracchia, Davied Morales, Caitlyn Prather, Patrick Ross, Holly Smolik, David Kirk, Erik Scilley
Directed by: Milissa Carey
Choreography by: Amanda Folena
When: February 20 through March 9, 2014
Where: Lohman Theatre, Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills, California
Tickets:$10-$28. Visit www.foothillmusicals.com or call 650-949-7360
The problem with any production of "Little Shop of Horrors" is the E.G.F.
The Ellen Greene Factor.
Barbra Streisand is the only "Funny Girl." Julie Andrews is the only Maria Von Trapp (Mary Martin notwithstanding). Ellen Greene is the only Audrey the beautiful Skid Row woman with the big heart, the big breasts, the big voice and the tacky wardrobe. Greene originated the role off-Broadway in 1982, took it to the West End, and then starred in the 1986 film.
But our hats are off to the beautiful and talented Adrienne Walters, who had the courage to take on this amazing part and who delivers an excellent performance in a fun production of the show now on stage at Foothill Music Theatre in Los Altos Hills.
Walters is wonderful to watch in this role. She doesn't belt quite as strongly as Ellen Green, but who does? But she sings extremely well delivering the signature tune, "Suddenly Seymour" with strength and is a fine actor, who brings a lot of subtle and funny stuff to the role, in addition to the requisite over-the-top material.
It's a big, goofy musical, with a giant, people-eating plant and delightful rock 'n' roll music. It was based on the 1960 low-budget film by Roger Corman that became a cult classic in its own right. With music by Alan Menken and book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, it became an off-Broadway hit in 1982 and has gone on to zillions of other stage productions, a movie, an animated series and is apparently in production again for another movie.
The Foothill show has an excellent cast in addition to Walters. Adam Cotugno is great and funny as Seymour, the pathetic, plant-loving dork who is Audrey's co-worker at Skid Row Florists. He's the guy who finds the "strange and unusual plant" one day after a surprise total eclipse of the sun.
Alex Perez is wonderful to watch as Mr. Mushnik, with his stooped, hangdog posture as a failed shop owner, and his on-point delivery of his New York Yiddish accent. He has excellent comic timing for his dialogue, never hurrying anything, but letting it develop as it should.
The plant draws needed customers to the forlorn flower shop, but is ailing. Once Seymour learns the plant wants human blood, he feeds it from his own cut fingers till he is weak and dizzy from blood loss. Then he finds more gruesome ways to nourish it, especially after it bursts into song with "Feed Me (Git It)."
Meanwhile, there is Audrey, loved by Seymour but who is dating the sadistic dentist, Orin Scrivello.
Megan Coomans, Melissa Baxter and Lyn Mehe'ula are terrific as Ronette, Chiffon and Crystal, the girl-trio Greek chorus of this eccentric morality play.
And Jeff Clarke, who was hilarious as Mr. Applegate in the July 2013 Foothill production of "Damn Yankees" is also hilarious here, as the sadistic dentist, Orin Scrivello. It's a part that has to be over the top but with its own subtleties, and Clarke is masterful and funny with it.
The amplified sound mix on opening night started badly, with the fine band, led by Dolores Duran-Cefalu, blasting too loud, hurting our ears and overwhelming the vocals. But that was straightened out after a while, and all was good. It's a small theater, but it helps that all the principals had wireless microphones. Not that they were consistently used; it was kind of funny to be listening to dialogue, then all of a sudden hear the voice get louder as a song began and it was transitioned from unamplified to amplified.
Special kudos to Amanda Folena for her choreography. Everybody had fun stuff to do, and the urchins Ronette, Chiffon and Crystal especially had a completely charming and hilarious bit in the shop window.
Director Milissa Carey threw in countless little touches that were quite funny, that I haven't seen in other productions. There was a bit involving Audrey's skirt, for instance, that got a big laugh.
I was a little bothered by some of Margaret Toomey's costume design. Audrey, for instance, starts out looking almost exactly like Little Orphan Annie, in a red dress with black waist band and a big red wig. The only difference was Walters' considerable cleavage. Little Orphan Annie, all grown up.
And later, when a joke keyed on Audrey's tacky taste, what she was wearing wasn't really all that tacky. She looked pretty great, actually. Of course, what do I know about women's clothes? Most of the costuming was spot-on.
Audrey II the plant that eventually eats everybody starts out as a little puppet in a pot, and Cotugno is very good at handling it. Funny stuff here. Audrey II, who grows bigger and bigger as Seymour finds gruesome ways to keep it fed, becomes a much larger puppet, looking like a cross between a slob bachelor's ginormous bean bag chair and a trailer park couch and then gets even bigger, requiring two puppeteers, David Kiri and Erik Scilley, who drew great applause at the end of the show.
Audrey II is voiced by James Devreaux Lewis, and he's excellent, bringing soulful 1960's-style Motown sound to the role. Also, at curtain, he did a great walk off the stage that needs to be seen by all. Wait for it.
Foothill Music Theatre, based at Foothill College, is a program that was developed by Jay Manley into something that has fed the entire Bay Area theater scene and beyond. Manley retired from teaching a while back (he still does plenty of directing around the greater Bay Area), and Carey has taken his place. The program continues to develop new talent, and bring back plenty of excellent performers who have long been a part of it.
It's a gem of a theater, and y'all are encourage to go see this show. You'll have a good time.