Vol. 8, No. 23 – August 19 – September 1, 2015 – Two on the Aisle

Little Shop filled with big delights
by Jim Spencer and Shirley Lorraine

This month the rafters at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center are rocking as the Actors Repertory Company of Simi (ACTS) presents the classic sci-fi rock musical Little Shop of Horrors.  But this production is anything but a horror.  It is filled with big delights.

Based on the cult classic movie with some slight differences, the popular musical is both an engaging spoof and a tribute to sci-fi movies of the 1950s where an alien life form arrives to take over the earth. In Little Shop the visitor is a tiny plant.  It is discovered by Seymour, a budding wannabe horticulturist who works as a go-fer in Mr. Mushnik’s skid row flower shop. The shop’s sales clerk is Audrey, a winsome platinum blonde with an inferiority complex and an abusive dentist boyfriend.

Renamed Audrey II by Seymour after his secret love, the plant begins to grow after tasting a drop of blood when Seymour accidentally pricks his finger. As long as Audrey II receives nourishment she continues to grows, and both the shop and Seymour are blessed with increasingly unusual good fortune, until….

All the actors turn in delightfully polished performances. As the hapless Seymour, Bob Moran is endearingly earnest.  Jen Ridgway, as Audrey, is appropriately ditzy. Martin Feldman’s portrayal of the stingy and self-absorbed shop owner, Mushnik, is as a crusty but lovable curmudgeon.  Nicholas Ferguson is up to the challenges of his multiple roles.

The biggest delight is the vocal talent of the entire cast. Ridgway has a powerful, clear voice uniquely suited to musical theatre.  Moran matches her clarity. Feldman’s experience and training are strongly evident.

Much of the action is propelled by a circa-1960s female trio of do-wop singers – Jennifer Sun Bell, Saundra Agababyan and Kyle Green. Each displays remarkable vocal ability, individually and as part of the trio’s balanced blend.  In addition to their vocal contributions, each plays a definable character with style and attitude. A plentitude of costumes changes make them even more fun to watch.

Kudos are also due to Bailey Ramirez and George Chavez II as the operator and voice, respectively, of Audrey II.

Musical direction is under the baton of Matthew Park.  The creative choreography provided by Rebecca Castells heightens the action and compliments the direction of Davis Daniels.  The winged set is used effectively to highlight both the flower shop interior and the street outside.

Rock music is renowned for being loud. While the singers need and have personal body microphones, in our view feathering down on the overall vocal amplification would enhance the experience at this venue.  At times we found the sound volume and decibel intensity almost painful.

Little Shop of Horrors, presented by the Actors Repertory Company of Simi, plays until August 30 at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley. Show times: 8 p.m.-Fridays and Saturdays. 2 p.m.-Sundays. Tickets: General-$25/60+ & Students-$22/under 13-$18.   583-7900. On line at www.simi-arts.org.

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