Sara-Jeanne Hosie

Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre
Little Shop of Horrors by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman

Dates and Venue 31 July – 12 Aug 2012, 8pm | McPherson Playhouse, Victoria

Reviewer Roger Wayne Eberle

It is a hot August night in Victoria and Chris Mackie leads off in the role of a dapperly dressed emcee to play the opening night crowd at the McPherson Playhouse for laughs, introducing the ‘creature feature’: The Little Shop of Horrors. Due to cutbacks, the evening’s drama is to be presented as a radio play, and Chris Mackie says he’ll play all the parts. In actuality, he does wear more than his share of hats during this performance, but aside from the motorcycle-dentist, they are all incidental walk-on parts.

Maybe it isn’t a radio play, but some elements of this performance are definitely underutilized.

Patrick DuWors set consists of a drop-down façade, depicting plenty of old-fashioned fire-escape ladders scaling the backside of old brick tenement buildings to convey the inner-city slum look. This facade is raised periodically throughout the performance, and immediately after the opening number, Downtown, performed by a trio of girls (Kelly Hudson as Ronnette, Jana Morrison as Chrystal, and Sara Carle as Chiffon) acting as a 60s girl-group chorus of street urchins.

Behind the façade is the second set piece in a fairly static set design – a dingy looking floral shop owned by old Mr. Mushnik. There is a cash register, a large show window and a side door, often utilized as a stage device for entrances and exits onto the center stage area. Given Mr. DuWors excellent set design expertise, it would seem that his skills were unfortunately underutilized in this production.

Damon Calderwood delivers little more than a one-note rendition of mean old Mr. Mushnik. Whether talking or singing, his raspy gruffness makes it easy to be pleased when he ends up as plant food.

Treena Stubel, the choreographer for this production is also underutilized. Dance numbers are scant, and those that are used are fairly traditional. So much more could be done.

The costume choices seem to be derived largely from the movie on which this play is based, especially in the case of Kholby Wardell’s Seymour, who comes off as nerdy, needy and quite a bit younger than the object of his affection, Audrey. In fact, this mismatch cuts a little deeper: vocally, Sara-Jeanne Hosie (Audrey) is clearly a superior singer to Mr. Wardell, and when they sing together she significantly outperforms him.

The best number by far in this production is Somewhere That’s Green, the solo where Ms. Hosie showcases her wonderful vocal range while singing about her character’s ideal home in suburbia. Victoria residents are in for a treat later this year when Ms. Hosie reprises her role as Patsy Cline for the Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre.

Overall, this is a light-hearted, fun and largely entertaining production, and a fitting way to cap off Blue Bridge’s fourth season. The final number, Don’t Feed the Plants, is a humorous ensemble effort; a rousing rendition that reminds us that you are what you are eaten by, which is incidentally why Audrey mentions with her dying breath that she is happy to be going somewhere that’s green. No irony here!

Underutilization aside, Little Shop of Horrors is theatre worth seeing and no matter how affected by cutbacks it may be, it is still vastly superior to even the best of those old radio plays.

© 2012 Roger Wayne Eberle