Little Shop of Horrors
Patrick Shannon, III
Theatre Critic / Ambush Magazine
Little Shop of Horrors was presented by Brandt Blocker at Rivertown Repertory Theatre. Brandt Blocker has a tremendous talent for gathering around him young people with remarkable theatrical abilities. Not only were Brandt Blocker’s musical talents in evidence in this remarkable production of Little Shop of Horrors, but when one considers the youth of his actors and actresses one can only marvel at the high quality production performances of this show. This production was one of the best and most professional of many I’ve seen in many different venues. There is not a weak moment in the entire collaboration of Brandt Blocker and his talented cast.
Most of us know the plot of this little cult musical with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman - music by Alan Menken; and all inspired by the movie version based on the campy B film by Roger Corman whose screenplay writer was Charles Griffith.
It’s a black comedy with some really bright, and bouncy musical numbers in the styles of the girl group singers of the nineteen sixties and some Jamaican rhythms. This group of performers were all so good I can’t praise them enough. The musical is done with such a bright and zippy style that it brings out the lighter side of a possibly dark story. You can’t help but laugh and tap your way through the delightful and finely crafted production.
The brilliant non-stop well paced Stage and Musical Direction was done by Brandt Blocker. And what a wonderful talent he has for bringing out star quality in such young performers.
Among the gifted team that worked with Brandt Blocker was Choreographer, Juan‚ Buisson, who put these kids through their paces with some perfect dance movements that were in total keeping with the period and style of the show and its music. Lots of rock and roll type posing and lively staging and some very Fosse-esque dance routines. All done by this young cast with perfect timing and coordination. This was as good as it gets anywhere.
Let me acknowledged this astonishing cast in order of appearance:
Gina Porter was Crystal, Gabrille Porter was Ronnette, and Kallie Miller was Chiffon; a trio of singers that acts as a modern Greek chorus commenting on and keeping the plot running. They were a faultless group of performers and keep the tempi alive and moving. Their role names as street urchins borrow from the names of girl group singers we all remember so well.
Luis Q. Barroso, one of our town’s top 10 top greatest performers played Mr. Mushnik, the flower shop owner with a sweeter disposition than is usually associated with the role. Needless to say, he was charming and his years of theatrical experience was put to full use much to our pleasure.
Emily Antrainer was Audrey and what a great performer. Her singing was very Broadway style, her phrasing was perfect, and her performance was divine.
Keith Claverie was Seymour Krellbourn, Audrey’s secret admirer. He too has a plethora of talents. His singing voice was wonderful, clear and well used. He can dance and act with the best of the best.
Kenneth Thompson was Orin Scrivello, DDS. He played the role of the bike riding sadistic dental surgeon with an over the top relish and his singing voice, acting and dancing was up to the same high level of the rest of the cast.
Bernie Prat was a Customer (and was also responsible for the manipulation of Audrey II) and without him, we’d have had no show at all. He gave he monster man-eating plant a charm and character from its first appearance in its itsy-bitsy pot to its eventually giant adulthood as it eventually took stage center, fully grown and constantly demanding, "Feed me. Feed me!"
Rendell Debose was the voice of Audrey II, and he gave the plant it’s great singing style with a strong and sexy voice.
Anna Toujas was Mrs. Chang, Patrick Cragin was Bernstein, Jeremy Reese was Luce, Eric Bond was Snip, Shannon Corrigan was Patricia Martin; and they each performed their bit parts like real troupers, missing not a moment to shine nor a cue to work the audience.
Eric Bond, Shannon Corrigan, Patrick Cragin, Molly France, Allyse Gillen, Jennifer Marks, Gelise Porter, Jeremy Reese, Nick Otts, Leslie Taylor, and Kelsey Vogt were Skid Row Occupants.
Brandt Blocker added these singers contrary to the usual way the musical is cast. So many talented kids showed up, he felt he had to find some way to get them on the stage. And he did, and their appearance added a nice touch and made make the music written in the style of the nineteen sixties more interesting. The stage was never empty; and he did a fine job of staging, painting momentary pictures with his group performers.
The excellent Skid Row Band was consisted up of: Kevin Caparotta - Keyboards, Ted Hass - Guitars, Brandt Blocker - Bass, and Cliff Stromeyer -Drums and for once the sound control was perfect. No one left the theatre deaf or dizzy, a lesson in acoustics and vocal control with technical knowledge that should be learned by certain other local venues.
Linda Rigamer was the Musical Assistant, and no doubt has a great gift as evidence by the fine production values of the show.
Production Design was provided by Johnathan Foucheaux. He brought some of his magical expertise from his work at Six Flags. Johnathan Foucheaux was a very talented catch; and his knowledge of smoke, mirrors and lighting effects was put to good use. The show was aglow with his touch. As I commented earlier, Brandt Blocker seems to know how to attract the real young professionals which category Johnathan Foucheaux certainly filled.
Sound Design was done by Cliff Stromeyer with a good knowledge of how to work the technical sound board of the theatre. He kept every thing on an even schedule, a very pleasant surprise for those of us, as mentioned, who have attended other venues where they never seem to test the sound for the house and apparently forget the audience has ears sensitive to loud noises. His contribution to the show was an obvious good thing.
Puppet Design was created by Martin P. Robinson. It was his genius that allowed Audrey II the man and woman eating plant to grow from a cute little green thing in a tiny pot to a stage filling, talking, moving, singing blood thirsty alien - not to mention the main star of the show, at least in the non-human category. His Audrey II plant was a masterful job of puppetry and costume work.
Jennifer Collins was the Production Stage Manager and Lindsey Price was the Assistant to the Director. Their help kept things running as smoothly as a family of happy otters sliding down a snowbank with joyful playfulness.
The Costume designers were Juane Buisson, Jane Haas, Kerry Vogt, and Sarah Rosevalley. The costumes were bright, cheerful and perfect in effect from the big hair to the shoes. These were a sassy classy collection of attire. The fun big hair nineteen sixties-ish Wig Design was by Naomi and Kate Mann. Kerry Vogt was the able Properties Manager. The ever talented Chad Talkington and Johnathan Foucheaux were responsible for the set construction which was a wonderful version of a seedy little flower shop in a slummy neighborhood. It was as good as anything I’ve seen in New York city. Megan Terrebone, Earl Lenni, and David Rigamer were the Production Assistants; box Office staff were Tricia France and Jane Hass. While Jane Hass and Kerry Vogt were in charge of hospitality; and they all did a most cordial job. Media relations were provided by Gerber Porter and Mary Beth Haskins. Innovative Advertising did the program design. Most of this seems to be a direct copy of the original graphics. It was a beautiful poster, but not as inventive as the rest of the show which Brandt Blocker gave many an original and lovely new touches to in his concept of directing this highly polished cast. Thom Sikoski was the Business Manager and I’m sure he will be very busy.
Little Shop of Horrors in Brandt Blocker’s production ranks as one of the best, most professional and most enjoyable of musical shows ever done in our town. Give yourself a real treat and see it if you can get a ticket! It will blast you out of your seats with its youthful joyful high quality showmanship! Totally professional from top to bottom, from beginning to end.