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Home / Articles / Arts / Theater /  Cygnet's Little Shop is gruesomely funny
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Wednesday, Aug 31, 2011

Cygnet's Little Shop is gruesomely funny

A successful Little Shop of Horrors and the rest of this week's theater

By David L. Coddon
LSoH_Brandon_Mel2 Brandon Joel Maier and Melissa Fernandes in Cygnet Theatre's Little Shop of Horrors
- Photo by Daren Scott
A successful Little Shop of Horrors requires two basics: a squeaky, sexy Audrey and a gruesome (but funny) Audrey II.

Let’s start with Audrey, the curvy clerk in Mushnik’s flower shop on Skid Row. She was portrayed in B-movie icon Roger Corman’s original 1960 film by Jackie Joseph, who had a Betty Boop thing goin’ on. She was portrayed in Frank Oz’s 1986 musical flick by Ellen Greene, who had a Mamie Van Doren thing goin’ on. Melissa fernandes, who has a Melissa fernandes thing goin’ on, plays Audrey in Cygnet Theatre’s production of the 1982 Off- Broadway musical that inspired the second film. So, does Audrey work? Check, check and check.

As for Audrey II, the maneating plant, gruesome is a given. Audrey II’s particularly funny in the Cygnet production at the Old Town Theatre, where live actors inside Audrey II manipulate the plant—flower, roots, fiery red tongue and all.

Maybe this is all why Cygnet has extended the run (to Oct. 2) for its production. Clever and touristfriendly (well, perhaps not to tourists squeamish about cartoonish blood ’n’ guts), this Little Shop, directed by Cygnet’s Sean Murray, has much to recommend it: inventive lighting and stage effects that at once evoke the black-and-white Corman flick and accentuate the blood red of carnivorous Audrey II’s tongue; a game cast that includes Brandon Joel Maier as nerdy botanist Seymour and Phil Johnson as his boss (and later adoptive dad), Mr. Mushnik; a scene-setting do-wop girl chorus; and lots of fun ’50s references for those old enough to recognize ’50s references. The Old Town Theatre audience was not thrown by the nods—in the same song—to I Love Lucy and Father Knows Best.

The cleverness of Murray’s staging is in the visual actualities that hark back to the era of Corman’s cult film. The set is gray, the do-wop trio’s attire is often gray and the backdrop of Mushnik’s shop as is shadowy as a spider creeping up a wall in the dank darkness. For two hours, you might as well be inside an old Philco TV set.

The crazy dentist and all his doings are over-the-top, and don’t expect a happy ending. But do expect Audrey and Audrey II both to amuse.

Little Shop of Horrors runs through Oct. 2 at the Old Town Theatre. $39-$59.

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