In the second act of Little Shop of Horrors, Skid Row assistant florist and budding botanist Seymour Krelborn (played by Kelrik Productions founder Erik Austin) discovers that the bizarre and sensational plant he’s been growing (to draw customers into the failing Mushnik’s Skid Row Florists) requires much more to sustain itself than the few drops of blood Seymour can prick from his fingers.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF SANDRA CORTEZ PHOTOGRAPHY
- GROWING SOME TALENT : Kelly Barrett, Erik Austin, and Mike Mesker bring Little Shop of Horrors to life—cheesy, murderous, beautiful, green life.
“I’m hungry! Feeeeed me!” screams the gigantic Audrey II, as it erratically swings its leaves and vines, mashing its blood soaked teeth together.
And there it was. The moment when I realized I, too, have been hungry for something.
As the lights dim and Seymour exits, having made the grave decision to feed Audrey II what it really needs—human life—Audrey II slowly sinks back into its oversized pot for the night, content it will soon be fed.
I, too, slumped back in my seat at Unity, where the Kelrik Production of Little Shop of Horrors (directed by Kerry Mayling) plays through April 21, content with the fact that I was having an absolutely stellar time.
What about this felt so different? I’ve enjoyed the offerings of other local theaters, finding nuanced and unique facets of local performances that make them worth watching. But, if I’m being honest, I’ve recently felt starved for the underlying purpose of staged performance: a great time.
And this is where Little Shop of Horrors succeeds. At face value, it’s a play full of dismemberment and cheesiness, but nearly everything about this Kelrik production blooms like someone covered it in Miracle Grow.
Fans of the film version, or other staged productions, or anyone with semi-decent vision could tell you that the gorgeous (that’s a tough adjective to wield when describing a homicidal house plant) and masterful puppets that bring Audrey II to life are what make watching the cheese that is Little Shop a thoroughly engaging visual pleasure.
Fans: If you have any apprehension about watching a local production of the play because of Audrey II, let me put your fears to bed by telling you that the many incarnations of the plant in this performance are, for lack of a better Little Shop double entendre, out of this world.
The first version of the puppet, no bigger than a small fern, ignited a hope in me that finally, someone, somewhere in the bowels of the local performing arts community had gotten the memo that people do in fact look at the set pieces during a performance. That hope was carried through and exploded like the size of Audrey II after her first human meal, when the full-grown version of the plant was introduced.
It turns out the good people at Kelrik Productions went to great lengths to secure a traveling Audrey II puppet kit. It was an expensive but incredibly worthwhile investment that, if the post-show chatter was any indication, was greatly appreciated by audience members young and old.
The puppets alone make this show a unique thrill, a fact I’m sure the production crew at Kelrik anticipated, but these folks didn’t stop there. If there were ever a play that displayed the raw and refined offerings of local talent, it is Little Shop.
The three Doo-Wop Sisters (the singing, big-haired trio of narrators), played by Chloe Davis, Caitlin Tobin, and Jessica Quandt, had an incredible combination of vocal and acting talent that—again, I have to be honest here—I usually have to drive 85 miles and pay $55 to see.
Erik Austin delivers such an impressive rendition of Rick Moranis’ Seymour that he could have forgone the iconic bad wardrobe in favor of a burlap sack and still nailed this role (thankfully he didn’t, and I got an opportunity to laugh at all the bad plaid and bowties).
But without a doubt, the standout performer of evening was Audrey II’s namesake: Audrey, the floral shop assistant, played by the outstanding Kelly Barrett. Where the ditzy, shrill-voiced, abusive-dentist-dating Audrey can be grating, Barrett makes her endearing; where Audrey’s sad and simple hopes for her life run the risk of being clichéd, Barrett has you championing her dream to own a tract home in the greenness of the suburbs as if it were her longing to become a NASA engineer.
From set to musical direction (the latter wonderfully executed by Lacey McNamara), the team’s sweat equity is apparent.
And as the cast gathered around a dancing Audrey II for the final musical number (“Don’t Feed the Plants”) it dawned on me exactly why this performance was such a success: Like me, they were all having fun. Lots of fun. This wasn’t art for art’s sake. This wasn’t a bunch of people in 1950s costumes trying to shove some golden age nostalgia down my throat to make me yearn for a better, simpler time. This was a group of people who know exactly what kind of play, and what kind of audience, they were working with. And they did it with the coolness of a motorcycle-driving dentist who likes to get hopped up on nitrous oxide.
Calendar Editor Maeva Considine is now afraid of her house plants. Thanks, Kelrik Productions. You can reach her at email@example.com.