If you’ve seen the original film version of “The Little Shop of Horrors,” the wonderfully grainy, black-and-white 1960 cult classic that parodied film noir and low-budget horror films, you have to wonder how Alan Menken and Howard Ashman ever got the idea to turn it into a bright and sprightly musical.
They were geniuses for recognizing the musical potential of the bleak story of a Skid Row nebbish who raises a talking plant with a taste for human flesh. They were even greater geniuses for creating such an incessantly delightful show from that source material.
The Manatee Players production of “Little Shop of Horrors” — the musical drops the word “the” from the original film’s title — opened Thursday. The opening night performance was not devoid of problems, but wonderful singing and heartfelt acting made it easy to ignore the weaknesses. (The puppetry work involved in bringing Audrey II to life was sloppy, and toward the end it appeared that there may have been a malfunction that prevented Audrey’s mouth from moving properly.)
The cast, under the energetic direction of Dewayne Barrett, is small, just nine people including a silent puppeteer and the off-stage actor who provides the voice of the plant. And there are no weak links. There are no voices that aren’t stellar and there are no false moments in the acting.
The opening night performance was not devoid of problems, but wonderful singing and heartfelt acting made it easy to ignore the weaknesses.
Manatee Players stalwart Brian Chunn plays probably half the roles. His quick changes of costumes and character, and his entertainingly over-the-top turn as sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello, come close to stealing the show.
But Christina Capehart and Craig Weiskerger in the lead roles won’t allow the show to be stolen. Weiskerger is Seymour, who gains fame and fortune as the result of cultivating a plant the likes of which the world has never seen. He names the plant Audrey II, after his unrequited love, played by Capehart.
Capehart’s voice is gorgeous, and she can give you chills with her rendition of the show’s two most well-known songs, “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Suddenly Seymour.” That latter song is a duet with Weiskerger, and his singing is as hefty and emotion-filled as Capehart’s. “Suddenly Seymour,” deliberately silly title aside, is a moving moment when it’s delivered by Weiskerger and Capehart.
Ken Basque as Mushnik, the harried owner of the Skid Row flower shop where Audrey and Seymour work, Eldred Brown as the voice of Audrey II and Mike McGee-Kleinschmdt, Javisha Strong and Vanessa Voiz as the trio that works as sort of Greek chorus are all loads of fun to watch and listen to.
Manatee Players stalwart Brian Chunn plays probably half the roles. His quick changes of costumes and character, and his entertainingly over-the-top turn as sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello, come close to stealing the show.But Christina Capehart and Craig Weiskerger in the lead roles won’t allow the show to be stolen.
The five-piece pit band (two keyboards, guitar, bass and percussion) played well and sounded rich and full. Caleb Carrier’s set, Becky Evans’ costumes and Joseph P. Oshry’s lighting were all delightful.
Details: Through Jan. 22, Stone Hall at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. $27-$37. 941-748-5875, manateeperformingartscenter.com.