Plant satisfies appetite___in fun, breezy play

Plant satisfies appetite___in fun, breezy play

Jim Kershner Staff writer

Plant satisfies appetite___in fun, breezy play “Little Shop of Horrors” Thursday night, Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre

theater Review

“Little Shop of Horrors” Thursday night, Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre

By Jim Kershner

Staff writer

As I walked out of the theater Thursday night, I heard an elderly gentleman say, “I didn’t get all of it. All I know is, there was a man-eating plant.”

In fact, he did get all of it. “Little Shop of Horrors” is the best example in existence of a one-note musical comedy. It’s about a man-eating plant from outer space, and … well, that’s about it.

The plant arrives, makes the nerdy florist Seymour famous and then proceeds to eat, more or less, everybody.

As the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre proves with this production, that’s enough to make it an entertaining crowd-pleaser. “Little Shop” has been a hit for two decades not for its plot or characters, but for its campy, let’s-revel-in-the-tackiness tone.

The Howard Ashman-Alan Menken score doesn’t serve so much to advance the plot, lifted from a silly Roger Corman B-movie, as to wink at it. The main narrative device consists of a three-person chorus, made up of Crystal, Chiffon and Ronette, a ’60s-style girl group which comments wryly on the action. For instance, one song is clearly based on Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” yet it is called “Skid Row (Downtown)” and it’s not about a swingin’ downtown. It’s about a depressed downtown.

Director Roger Welch does the right thing by having most of the cast play their parts broadly, with big, thick Jersey accents, to show they are in on the joke. Christopher Moll runs with this idea in not one, but seven or eight different roles, including Orin the Dentist. Moll plays him as a hilarious cross between The Fonz and Dr. Joseph Mengele. Even his death scene is a scream.

That’s fitting, since the dentist overdoses on laughing gas.

Welch’s best move was to cast the two lead roles perfectly. Frank Jewett is completely lovable as Seymour the flower shop attendant. The boyish Jewett squirms, stammers and wrings his hands in lovesick agony. Few actors know how to make nerdishness so endearing.

Meghan Maddox is ideal as Audrey, the object of his love. A long, tall blonde with a bouffant hairdo, she speaks with an accent right out of Passaic. Yet her singing voice is clear and pure, shown off in best effect in “Somewhere That’s Green,” a paean to tract homes and Formica, and in the sweet ode to her new love, “Suddenly Seymour.”

The triple-threat chorus was also terrific, clearly reveling in their choreographed moves. Krista Kubicek and Kelly Kunkel were their usual talented selves, yet I’d like to single out Melissa Fleck for bringing a tremendous amount of personality to every moment on stage.

The other big star of the show is, of course, the plant, Audrey II. This big, polka-dotted flytrap came from a previous production in Missoula and a team of puppeteers brought it to life. Steve Booth provided its raucous, gravelly voice.

The set design by Michael McGiveney was particularly impressive. The show opens with giant comic book covers showing a blonde being eaten by a plant, setting the campy tone perfectly. McGiveney’s slumlike street scenes, complete with littered stoops, were note- perfect.

The production is entertaining throughout, but don’t expect it stick to your ribs. As I left, I was trying to remember the other four or five productions of “Little Shop” I had seen. I couldn’t remember a thing.

This production will probably have the same long-term effect. It’s fun, well-done and campy. It will not sear itself on your consciousness. As a midsummer treat, that’s not a bad thing.

“Little Shop of Horrors” continues through Aug. 1. For tickets, call (800) 4-CDATIX or 325-SEAT.

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