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STAGE REVIEWS : Troupe Brings Off 'Little Shop' With Bloodthirsty Confidence

June 22, 1989|MARK CHALON SMITH

The Resident Theatre Company doesn't do anything especially original with "Little Shop of Horrors"--it's all infused with the usual doo-wop pep, and the characters--from nerdy Seymour to sweet, weak Audrey--are all in place.

But the familiar is performed with colorful confidence.

Director Mary Bettini has brought a spoofy show featuring a lively cast and one hungry mother of a house plant--Audrey II--to the Muckenthaler Cultural Center's outdoor stage in Fullerton. Audrey II bellows just as it is supposed to, and everybody else keeps pace with its appetite for misadventure.

Based on Roger Corman's B-movie classic, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken's featherweight musical features a goofy score that revolves tightly around the film's goofy plot. For those who do not know the story line, Seymour, the undervalued nobody of an assistant in Mushnik's Skid Row Florists, finds a weird plant during a solar eclipse.

It turns out that Audrey II--named after Audrey, the cute but insecure floral arranger whom Seymour loves--is an alien, and a hungry one at that. It digs human blood, and Seymour ends up spending all his time searching for bodies.

Like the movie, the musical is outlandish in its lack of good taste, and the tunes, while not always memorable, cannot be called tame. Typical of the show's flavor, "Dentist!" is an aching tribute to sadistic tooth-pullers, and "Suppertime" is Audrey II's demanding anthem to a balanced diet.

The RTC cast, while fairly standard in the characterizations and with voices more competent than sensational, nonetheless exploits the musical's giddiness.

Diana Palombo has Audrey's mincing manner and pipsqueak voice down, and she brings the right amount of tenderness to her big solo, "Somewhere That's Green."

As Seymour, Kenny Rhodes is wimpy, big-hearted and likable. Jerry Siggins' Mr. Mushnik, Seymour's boss, is loud and harried. As Orin, the wacky dentist who likes to suck laughing gas while making patients weep, Royce Reynolds is correctly out of control.

Some of the best moments, as usual, are reserved for "Little Shop's" jive, street-strutting Greek chorus. The trio--Rosalind Johnson, Anita Hasten and Regina Le Vert--are just about the sassiest things on the stage.

Audrey II is pretty sassy too, in good part to Randolph B. Stripling. He is the voice behind this overfed Venus flytrap. Danny Michelson, who moves the, uh, head and tendrils, should also get credit.

'LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS'

A Resident Theatre Company production of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken's musical based on Roger Corman's movie. Directed and choreographed by Mary Bettini. With Rosalind Johnson, Anita Hasten, Regina Le Vert, Jerry Siggins, Dianne Palombo, Kenny Rhodes, Royce Reynolds, Randolph B. Stripling and Danny Michelson. Musical direction by D. Jay Bradly. Set by Gil Morales. Lighting by Steve Pliska. Costumes by Mela Hoyt-Heydon. Makeup and hair by Aarow Bond. Plays Tuesday through Sunday at 8:15 p.m. at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center Theatre-on-the-Green in Fullerton through July 2. Tickets: $12 to $22. (714) 992-7432.

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