Little Shop of Horrors
Peoria Players Theatre (Youth Production)
By Bill Liesse
If you’re going to stage “Little Shop of Horrors,” you’d better start with two things. You need a really likeable Seymour, and your tech people have to deliver on the plant.
Peoria Players’ version of the oddball comedy checks both these boxes easily. Wes Hunt is a perfectly cast Seymour, his still-youthful voice providing the right innocence in the show’s unassuming, well-intentioned protagonist.
And Audrey II, the Venus Flytrap-like, flesh-eating “star of the show,” looks great and functions flawlessly when small, medium and large. These are rented props, as almost every community group employs that option because creation of these monstrosities is too daunting, too complicated, for all-volunteer stage crews.
Nonetheless, the mid-sized Audrey II (mouth opening upward, a few teeth) and the final version (horizontal mouth, full set of teeth, able to swallow humans) still need to be operated correctly. The execution by the Players staff was excellent. Hayley Jones and Peyton Donahue get the bulk of the credit.
The third major positive in the directorial debut of Players board member Megan Cipolla is Audrey I, if you will. Emma Lutrell plays the object of Seymour’s desire, and proves to be quite the double threat. The ICC theater student has the best singing voice in the house. She also portrays Audrey’s personality in that most convincing of ways, where you want to tell her (as Seymour does) she should not have low self-esteem.
The main source of Audrey’s image problem is the sadistic dentist made famous on film by Steve Martin. Orin the Dentist is a leather-wearing, motorcycle-riding, abusive “boyfriend” to Audrey. Frank Drew checks all the boxes in this role – delivers the lines correctly – even if accepting him as this persona requires some suspended disbelief.
The audience must also suspend to accept the production’s well-adorned but nonetheless rather limited set. A clock doesn’t move except between acts, old Ma Bell receivers have no cords, everyone enters and exits through a nonlatching door that they never seem to be inside of in the first place.
Mind you, these are extremely small distractions set against the performances, all of which hit the right notes. It all starts with Hunt, on whom the demands are immense, as he barely leaves the stage. The college junior and lifelong performer captures every nuance.
Rusty Brost plays to the audience just right in maximizing the laughs as Mr. Mushnik, the shop owner. David Brown, unseen in voicing Audrey II, is very funny and invigorated the whole show when he started speaking. Madison Auge, Julia Frazelle and Arianna Morgan seem properly bemused while appearing in triplicate to move the story along and provide backup vocals.
It’s a shame that “Little Shop’s” opening night saw a house less than half full. That’s the chance you take when you present back-to-back youth shows on this stage and the latter opens on a night when EastLight and Corn Stock were drawing patrons as well. Many have said this constitutes an oversaturation problem; others believe any opportunities for our area up-and-comers are worth the effort.
That’s a point/counterpoint for another day.
Little Shop of Horrors continues Thursday through Saturday, August 9 beginning at 7:30 pm each night and on Sunday, August 10 at 2 pm. Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for ages 18 & under and are available at the Peoria Players Box Office, by calling 309-688-4473. For more information, visit www.PeoriaPlayers.org
Posted August 7, 2014