Little Shop of Horrors
by Valley Youth Theatre

Brennan Hillard and Carrie BraverWe best not get too cozy up on the top of the food chain, for the plants are finally turning the dining table around. When Seymour, a meek and nerdy assistant in a skid row flower shop, discovers a strange and interesting new plant that resembles a flytrap, his life starts turning around. But other lives start disappearing. Because this plant don’t want no water or fertilizer or Miracle Grow. This plant only has a hunger for blood. Human blood…

It’s Little Shop of Horrors by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast), and the man-eating plant took over Valley Youth Theatre’s space in April, causing more than its share of death and mayhem and laughter. Brennan Hillard is Seymour, and he has an excellent sense for the wimpy, nerdy, awkward, victimized character who, for once in his life, finally has something to sing about. And he sings it well. But he’s not so much singing for all the newfound fame his plant Audrey II is giving him. He’s singing for Audrey II’s namesake, the sweet Audrey I who suffers from low self-esteem and suffers even more from a sadistic boyfriend. And Carrie Braver delivers a superb performance, her affection for Seymour somehow both amusingly over the top and remarkably genuine at the same time thanks to great use of voice, body language, eyes curling up when she thinks about him, and singing a surprisingly touching Somewhere That’s Green (her vision of an idealistic life with Seymour in a little track home with Pine Sol-scented air and a lawn bordered by a fence made of “real chain link”). Seymour and Audrey combine for a strong rendition of their big love ballad Suddenly Seymour.

They are both in the employ of gruff, old flower shop owner Mr. Mushnik, and Max Nussbaum is the quintessential Mushnik – perfect voice and sour expressions, grabbing the first customer’s $100 bill before he could change his mind about the purchase, greedily offering to become Seymour’s adopted dad in their hilarious duet Mushnik and Son. William Marquez is Audrey’s sadistic boyfriend. DDS. A crazed dentist who loves inflicting pain, and William’s dentist is truly insane, his eyes wild, his speech frenzied to the point it’s often hard to understand (but you know he’s not saying anything nice). Jacqueline M. Rushing, Sarah Hollands, and Lena M. Courtney narrate the tale with style and great vocals in The Meek Shall Inherit and Don’t It Go to Show Ya Never Know while Audrey II keeps nipping at Jacqueline whenever her head is turned, Seymour trying to hold the hungry, opportunistic plant back. Ashley Waggoner is a riot as the aggressively flirty and filthy rich Mrs. Luce who offers to make Seymour a star, then casually throws cash over her shoulder as she leaves Skid Row. The ensemble does a nice job with their introduction to Skid Row.

Director Bobb Cooper’s show is strong character-wise and looks good enough to eat. Gregory Jaye has created a great set for Skid Row, with the alley walls sliding away to reveal the little shop and the windows rising up to become skylights. Soon enough the center of that set revolves around the plant – a gigantic and creative new puppet skillfully operated by Ian White with Derek Rushing, Jr. providing fantastic speaking and singing vocals for the creature as it manipulates and devours (including snacking on an unfortunate customer who falls in unnoticed during a bustling day at the shop). Costume Designer Karol Cooper has the Doo-Wop narrators in a variety of snazzy outfits and adds cool extensions to the big plant that includes its many victims in its bloodthirsty branches of horror.

Performs April 4 - 20, 2008.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Leana M. Courtney, Jacqueline M. Rushing, Sarah HollandsAudrey: Carrie Braver
Skip Snip: Victor M. Cervantes, Jr.
Crystal: Leana M. Courtney
Bernstein/Customer: Danny Epstein
Seymour: Brennan Hillard
Chiffon: Sarah Hollands
Orin Scivello, DDS: William Marquez
Mushnik: Max Nussbaum
Voice of Audrey II: Derek Rushing, Jr.
Ronnette: Jacqueline M. Rushing
Wino: Malcolm Temple
Mrs. Luce: Ashley Waggoner
Manipulation of Audrey II: Ian White

Director/Choreographer: Bobb Cooper
Music Direction: Mark Fearey
Costume Design: Karol Cooper
Set Design: Gregory Jaye
Production Stage Manager: Paul C. Thorpe II


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