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Review: Little Shop a frightful delight!

Don't touch the plant. Really. You've been warned.

Are you afraid of blood? Have a case of botanophobia (an irrational fear of plants)? Sorry to hear, but even that's not enough reason to pass on the high-energy comedy/horror/sci-fi rock musical now playing at The Citadel Theatre.

Little Shop of Horrors is outlandish, fast-moving fun--think Rocky Horror Picture Show with foliage. The 1960s-era doo-wop, R & B-infused Off-Broadway favourite (with a score by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman) is a co-production with Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre Co. and features a creative team and fine performances from players hailing from both Vancity and E-town. Bonus: a live band, led on this leg of the run by Edmonton's Ruth Alexander.

As the tale goes, hapless floral assistant Seymour (played with geeky delight by Calgary's Tenaj Williams) discovers a strange new plant he dubs Audrey II (after a coworker of the same name he secretly loves). Things get a little dark when the carnivorous plant starts to speak, promising fame and fortune in return for an unquenchable thirst for human blood and flesh. 

The owner of the shop, Mr. Mushnik (an appropriately grumpy Ashley Wright) quenches some of insistent Audrey II's thirst, as do a few others (I won't spoil who) as don't-know-what-to-do Seymour tries to juggle the shop's skyrocketing success with Audrey II's demands, and with the newfound love between he and Audrey. Said Audrey is a bit fragile, a bit sad and a bit of a dreamer; she's embodied perfectly by the sweet-voiced Synthia Yusuf.

Highlights for all the senses come via local favourite John Ullyatt as the sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello (in all his glorious nastiness: this is every dental patient's nightmare), and the heavy lifters of the show, the trio of skid row street urchins Crystal, Ronnette and Chiffon (Ali Watson, Ivy Charles and Rochelle Laplante) who light up many a scene with pleasing harmonies, dance and sass.

The Audrey II puppets, from wee sprout to beastly bad girl, are designed by Beyata Hackborn and come to life on stage by puppeteer Braydon Dowler-Coltman. The soulful voice of Vancouver's Madeleine Suddaby, brings heft to the villainous Audrey II--unapologetically selfish in going for what she needs. Girl has grit!

Director Ashlie Corcoran, Artistic Director of the Arts Club, sets just the right vibe with this production. From grungy set to a rockin' band to solid performances all around, Little Shop of Horrors is a terrific fright. Plant yourself in a seat at the Shoctor and dig in.

Little Shop of Horrors plays on the Shoctor stage until November 19. Tickets at the Citadel Box Office at 780.425.1820 or online at citadeltheatre.com.

 

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