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STAGE REVIEW

Big Enjoyment Found in 'Little Shop'

September 24, 1998|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When it comes to crowd pleasers, you can't beat "Little Shop of Horrors," the musical adaptation of the vintage sci-fi movie. Alan Menken's rock-around-the-clock music and the playful book and lyrics by the late Howard Ashman send this delightfully screwball tale, about a man-eating plant from outer space, rocketing into high camp.

The current production by Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities is impeccable in all particulars, with a terrific cast that milks every moment of the fun. Scott Dreier projects nebbishy appeal as the downtrodden Seymour, a skid-row florist-shop clerk whom the bloodthirsty plant enlists as a sort of, well . . . menu consultant. As Audrey, the object of Seymour's adoration, Eydie Alyson combines seasoned comic timing, a solid voice and the pneumatic squeakiness of Betty Boop.

April Nixon, Licia Shearer and Sharon Young, who play Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette, respectively, belt out their Motown-influenced numbers in virtuosic harmony. S. Marc Jordan is suitably avaricious as Mr. Mushnik, the scheming florist who exploits Seymour, while John Bisom is a pelvic-thrusting stitch as the sadistic dentist who holds Audrey in his thrall--that is, until Seymour and his potted pal intervene. Todd Larsen deftly manipulates the flesh-eating Audrey II, while Tracy Coley gives the plant a soulfully stentorian sound that makes Barry White sound like a tenor.

Steven Landau's music direction is unobtrusively sure. Director-choreographer Sha Newman keeps this purely goofy, purely delightful production bebopping throughout.

BE THERE

"Little Shop of Horrors," Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo Beach. Tonight-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m. Ends Sunday. $30-$45. (310) 372-4477. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

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