review by Janet I. Martineau
As utterly goofy as it is, there is also something utterly charming about the musical “Little Shop of Horrors,” a spoof of the sci-fi genre.
And the currently running production of it at Saginaw Valley State University is no exception to that legacy.
Although director Ric Roberts does not have an especially strong cast in the vocals department, it is strong in the acting end and its direction and choreography.
Randall Manetta is so over the top fun as the Elvis-like sadistic dentist we’re sorry he is killed and eaten by the big bad plant early on. Caitlin Walsh, Carly Anderson and Portia Brown have delightful attitude as the “Greek” chorus in a variety of mini-roles. Blake Mazure is spot on on the Jewish skid row flower shop owner. And Cameron Thorp has a thankless job as the silent wino who slumbers and drinks in the skid row street scenes, always in character.
Roberts keeps the show moving right along, and through several directorial decisions (we assume) maintains its 1960s aura/camp movie style beyond just the obvious. At least we are crediting him with that concept behind some of the set mechanics that are, by today’s standards, amateurish.
But the biggest praise goes to the David Ryan/Rusty Myers team as the Audrey II plant. Ryan is the exception on the vocals. He is tremendous as Audrey II -- soulful, sarcastic, desperately hungry, demanding, singing with all the conviction in the world. And Myers, probably cooking inside that big plant puppet, makes the toothy creature seem all too real. We about lost it when he wiggled his tendrils in anticipation as Pod No. 3.
As for the two lead characters (Zach Bauer as Seymour and Lexee Longwell as his lady love Audrey)...well, how do we say this.....Bauer by nature is just not quite short and nerdy enough nor Longwell ditzy bombshell enough. There is only so much you can do with costumes, makeup and line delivery when physically an actor does not fill the bill (unless the actor is Meryl Streep).
This is not to criticize their performance...they did make us laugh. But we never 100 percent believed in their characters.
Jerry Dennis has created another fine set with lots of details to enjoy and Elise Shannon’s costumes add greatly to the atmosphere as well. On a negative note, the Audrey II plant is a little on the skimpy side on how it continues growing from other productions we have seen or read about.
Bravo too on the opening and ending, which pays homage to the 1960 Roger Corman film which started this whole crazy show in motion.
“Little Shop” continues through Sunday.