‘Little Shop’ Blossoms Review -- Charming, Inspiring, Worth Your Time

Little Shop of Horrors is playing at North Hollywood’s Eclectic Theater through March 15, 2009.  The show arrives with history.  A 1960 B-movie, an iconic 1986 re-make starring comic great Rick Moranis, and presently a handful of teen and tweeners on stage, all with the superior sounds of Alan Menkin, an 8-time Oscar winning song writer.

The Eclectic Theater is a quaint stage, fueled by passion and out of the box creativity.  This performance is unique, as the cast is from “The Children’s Theatre Group of Southern California”. But these young performers
earn every clap and smile.  Truly stellar.  Opening night attendees Jason Alexander ( Seinfeld) and Annie Potts ( Designing Women, Ghostbusters) beamed, applauded and had a great time, just as the entire audience did -- fun for the whole family.
Down on Skid Row

The story is familiar to most of us, but a quick refresher can’t hurt: 
Seymour ( Gabe Greenspan) is an orphan working at Mushnik’s Flower Shop, a close-to-closing ghetto greenhouse.  His co-worker and shy love interest
Audrey ( Katie Scarlett) is a vulnerable, ditzy doll who is abused by her aggressive, tooth-friendly boyfriend.  But then the bad news.  Mrs. Mushnik
( Brooke O‘Donnell) explains the flower shop is about to close, leaving all three of them unemployed and broke.

Katie Scarlett with "Ronnette", "Chiffon" and "Crystal" Photo by: Sherry Lynn

But wait, at the last minute a passerby stops in after noticing a new and very strange-looking plant.  And while there, she purchases one hundred dollars worth of roses.  Disaster averted.

A Star is Born

Seymour’s pet project, the “strange-looking plant” is a pseudo venus fly-trap, green monster with a strange image, yet delivers mass appeal for curiosity sake.  Named after his crush from afar: “Audrey 2” has become a huge hit.

Katie Scarlett with gabe Greenspan Photo by: Sherry Lynn

Soon enough this ghetto greenery grocer is pulling in bucks and migrating media attention. Audrey 2 is a star, thus Seymour’s now a star.  

But the fame comes with a price.  First blood.  Then more blood.  Then too much blood.    Oh, the tangled web we weave when at first we practice to deceive.

You’re Gonna Wanna Remember

The first moment to hold your attention is Audrey’s entrance.  Katie Scarlett’s work is tender and heart-warming.  Though her character is probably too pretty and not ditzy enough for a true “Audrey”, she captures the audience and never lets you go.  She’s certainly young, but she’s a wise bet.  Her career is prime to explode, I only hope to be invited to her next big premiere.

Gabe Greenspan’s “Seymour” is an interesting mix. He has a lumbering Clark Kent quality about himself.  Awfully close to a leading man’s matinee idol looks. By the second act he relaxes, has fun and glows along with the Scarlett beauty.  Strong kudos to them both.

Brooke O’Donnell’s “Mrs. Mushnik” has some of the most challenging moments.  Trapped in a tangly, fish net of a dress.  And she doesn’t have the sparkling moments of Scarlett or Greenspan.  She displays strong supporting qualities and I hope to see more of her work.

Katie Scarlett with Doc Hayman. Photo by: Sherry Lynn

And then there’s Maggie Herskowitz, who plays the monstrous plant “Audrey 2”.  My, my, Maggie. Upon her entrance, we’re nervous for her based on the conceptual gimmick.  But she’s not nervous.  She holds a quiet confidence throughout. Then during her break-out “Feed Me” she just lets loose.  She’s got a fierce talent that no make-up or outrageous costume can hide.  

Inspiration From the Valley

So here’s why you need to see this show.  It’s in North Hollywood, just off Ventura Boulevard, where countless actors audition on a daily basis.  I’m sure it’s hard not to become bitter and frustrated.  But, see this show to remind yourself why you love performing.  Refresh your love of telling a story.  Be inspired by these young thespians and the glimmer in their eyes.  It’ll put a spring in your step, a light in your eyes.  You’ll smile and remember why you love it all so much too.

Brooke O'Donnell with Gabe Greenspan Photo by: Sherry Lynn

Audrey 2’s Legendary Roots

The Mushnik story has always been popular.  The book and lyrics by multiple Oscar winner Howard Ashman; and music by multiple Oscar winner Alan Menken.  It’s no wonder every beat, chord and lyric leaves a mark.
Big praise needs to be given to director and choreographer Cindy Robinson.  She’s taken iconic work and made it her own, delivering an entertaining, fun and  a genuine crowd pleaser.

Producers Robert Briscoe Evans and Sherry Lynn shone the way with their spirit and passion.  Brent Schindele’s piano brought those legendary chords to life.  John Dickey’s work brought themes and textures which allowed us to be taken into the story’s world.  

The Eclectic Company Theatre
5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd. (between Chandler and Magnolia)
North Hollywood, CA 91607.
WHEN: February 20- March 15, 2009. Fri. & Sat. at 7, Sun. at 2.
ADMISSION: All seats $15.
RESERVATIONS: (818) 508-3003.
WEBSITE: www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org

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