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Review for: Little Shop of Horrors

by Craig Gustafson on Sunday, April 17, 2011 at 1:54am

“Okay, let’s get this part out of the way right now: I Was Wrong.”

When I was told of the plan to produce Little Shop of Horrors with a huge chorus and lots of scene changes, my words were polite while my Director Brain was moaning, “Oh, no. Please. Don’t do that. It’s a compact little musical. Don’t kill it.”

Well, I was wrong. It’s a new theater company in a rented space, which meant less than the minimal time to adequately prep the show. It’s already a technically challenging show. And the unit set was turned into multiple sets. And it worked.

Did they sing well? Yep. Did they play the jokes? Yep. Did they keep up the pace? Absolutely. The show was the same length it always is.

Ten times more work than was necessary? Sure. But that’s no skin off my nose. The show worked. Details:

Juddson Upike as Seymour: great singer. Stronger singer than actor, but Seymour does a lot of singing and he gets by well on the acting.

Ken Kaden as Mushnik: terrific job. You know how I favor performances that fit the size of the space? This is in the Arcada Theater in St. Charles. Kaden’s performance fits the room.

Jon Grigalunas as Audrey II (voice): very, very good. Very strong and good characterization.

genevievE Pastore as Audrey. Those of you who know me - look me in the eyes (yes, right now, on Facebook). My hands are on your shoulders and I am looking at you very directly. Now: As far as being a musical comedy performer, genevievE Pastore is a genius. G E N I U S. It’s tough picturing her in parts - in real life she is so very quiet and shy. I knew that. She’s got the pipes for Audrey. I knew that - though it was still a pleasure listening to her blow the roof off the joint. But acting - I had NO IDEA. One of my favorite comic actors is Victor Buono (he played King Tut on Batman and dozens of other jovial villains). Aside from the gleam in the eyes of every character he played, he had a beautiful and intelligent line delivery that allowed three or four nuances per sentence. And that’s what genevievE has. Her nuances dance across her sentences. She can slide from hilarious to heart-rending between syllables. Her performance is bloody amazing.

Jacqueline Schultz, Alixx Nott and Gabriella Marzetta as Ronnette, Crystal and Chiffon. Strong dancers, REALLY strong singers.

Other fun contributions from Robert Griegoliet as Orin and Adam Krause as Mr. Martin. And, as always, kudos to the Audrey II puppeteers - Steven Sledinski, Gus Gustafson (no relation), Matt Moschini and Robert Griegoliet. Particularly since the plants are friggin’ GIANTS. At the end of Act I, I thought they had brought out the wrong plant - it was the size of the one that ate me at Steel Beam (I was Mushnik). But the second act plant was even bigger.

Choreography by Jacqueline Schultz was solid and the band (led by Steven Hanson) was really sharp and of professional quality.

I loved the pale white footlights in the dentist scene that gave a Sweeney Todd feel to the scene. Also nice: at the end of Dentist, when Orin has one of the trio in the chair and is phallically attacking her with the drill, the “Say AHH!” “AHH!” sounded as if she was getting off on it as much as he was. That’s the kind of touch I would have put in, so I appreciated it.

Reagan Kotz directed, doing an amazing job coordinating a cruise ship that is ordinarily a speedboat. Pace was maintained and the set changes weren’t excruciating....

To sum up: Natural Talent Productions is Jacqueline Schultz’s theater company. Did she dive into Niagara Falls thinking it was a normal high dive? Yep. And that’s great. It was a spectacular dive and she looks great in the bathing suit, too. If you’re going to swing at the ball at all (I’m switching metaphors; stick with me), ya might as well swing for the bleachers. And she did. I don’t know what shows she has coming up next, but watch for them and audition for them, cause you’re goin’ for a RIDE.