"LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS," through Oct. 20, the Theater at Mount Jordan, 300 E. 9400 South, Sandy (801-568-2787); running time: 2 hours (one intermission)
Editors note: This is part of a new Deseret News series highlighting Utah's community theater programs.
SANDY — "Little Shop of Horrors" was anything but horrifying — it was a delight.
Based on the 1960 dark comedy film, “Little Shop of Horrors” (from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman — creators of Disney’s "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin") premiered off-off-Broadway in 1982 and made its Broadway debut in 2003. After thrilling success, it was adapted into a feature film musical in 1986, which included a stellar cast with Steve Martin, John Candy and Bill Murray.
Considering this is a community play, the setting and stage represented some serious showbiz. Upon entering the theater at Mount Jordan Middle School in Sandy, theatergoers are greeted with a newly renovated, expansive stage with equally impressive stage sets: a charming mint green flower shop, New York “skid row” brick apartments and an ever-growing Venus fly trap.
Sandy Arts Guild continued its professionalism with a six-member live band sitting just to the left of the stage, and it made all the difference. The band was in sync and didn’t miss a step — they didn’t overshadow the singers, but complemented their sound and added life to a play full of dark comedic deaths.
“Little Shop of Horrors” opened with a female trio who narrate the entirety of the play, reminiscent of a Greek chorus. Dressed in ’60s neon dresses, Crystal (Briana Chipman), Ronnette (Taylor Anne Thompson) and Chiffon (Alexsys Campbell) were full of colorful harmonies and personalities while singing the title song "Little Shop of Horrors." (Warning: You'll be singing it in your sleep.) While pitchy at times, these three women kept the show running. Though all three were clearly talented, Campbell's Chiffon was the standout. She didn’t have as many solos as the other two, but when she sang, a powerful vibrato — and even a little growl — shined through.
It's hard to say who stole the show considering all the leads were quite talented. Justin Berry's Mr. Mushnik kept the energy coming by portraying a melodramatic, stressed out small business owner. While overshadowed by Audrey (Eva TerraNova) and Seymour (Danny Eggers), Berry was always consistent with comic relief and dance moves in "Mushnik and Son." TerraNova stunned in her sultry cheetah print dresses and thick, authentic New York accent. Her acting garnered compassion from the audience and her voice flowed like honey, especially during her poignant ballad "Somewhere That's Green." TerraNova and Eggers were light on their feet with obvious chemistry during their love song "Suddenly, Seymour."
With all that said, the overall standout has to be Eggers. His boyish innocence and charm overshadowed his well-intentioned villiany, aiding in the deaths of several characters. Eggers not only acted with authenticity, grit and sensitivity, but his voice was delightful and effortless.
Some of his greatest duets came with the flesh-feeding plant, Audrey ll (DRU). DRU is not one to be overlooked. In his hilarious song "Feed Me (Git It)" DRU sings with a sass and soul that makes him loveable, despite his intention to exterminate humankind. The enormous plant was clearly hard to operate, but castmembers made it look effortless and terrifyingly realistic. Despite driving Seymour to madness and drinking his blood, DRU dazzled with an odd charm and familiarity that made audience members vibe with him at some level.
Another character that must be mentioned is Audrey's abusive, sadistic dentist, Orin (Shelby Maughan). While clearly disturbed, Maughan made Orin someone audience members loved to hate. His exaggerated facial expressions and comedic energy made his duet with Seymour "Now (It's Just the Gas)" weirdly enjoyable. His giddy, crazed giggles both horrified and fascinated the crowd. Though he found joy in yanking out root canals and inhaling absurd amounts of laughing gas, Maughan embraced the weirdness and pulled off a complicated character by showcasing a strong vocal performance.Comment on this story
Perhaps the only flaw was the persistent microphone problems. There was a continuous buzz behind the mics that easily muffled lines and distracted from otherwise beautiful ballads. The other pity was that it should have been far more crowded considering the amount of talent on display.
Though "Little Shop of Horrors" is a strange, dark comedic play — a flesh-eating plant overtakes a flowershop and drives Seymour to feed it human bodies to survive (some of which are his boss, enemy and lover) — theatergoers are continually entertained by bright, catchy songs, ridiculous scenarios, and ultimately gain sympathy for odd but loveable characters. Sandy Arts Guild provided a show that wasn't perfect, but well worth it.