Aug. 31 2011 11:33 AM

A successful Little Shop of Horrors and the rest of this week's theater

Brandon Joel Maier and Melissa Fernandes in Cygnet Theatre's Little Shop of Horrors
Photo by Daren Scott
A successful Little Shop of Horrors requires two basics: a squeaky, sexy Audrey and a gruesome (but funny) Audrey II.

Let's start with Audrey, the curvy clerk in Mushnik's flower shop on Skid Row. She was portrayed in B-movie icon Roger Corman's original 1960 film by Jackie Joseph, who had a Betty Boop thing goin' on. She was portrayed in Frank Oz's 1986 musical flick by Ellen Greene, who had a Mamie Van Doren thing goin' on. Melissa fernandes, who has a Melissa fernandes thing goin' on, plays Audrey in Cygnet Theatre's production of the 1982 Off- Broadway musical that inspired the second film. So, does Audrey work? Check, check and check.

As for Audrey II, the maneating plant, gruesome is a given. Audrey II's particularly funny in the Cygnet production at the Old Town Theatre, where live actors inside Audrey II manipulate the plant—flower, roots, fiery red tongue and all.

Maybe this is all why Cygnet has extended the run (to Oct. 2) for its production. Clever and touristfriendly (well, perhaps not to tourists squeamish about cartoonish blood 'n' guts), this Little Shop, directed by Cygnet's Sean Murray, has much to recommend it: inventive lighting and stage effects that at once evoke the black-and-white Corman flick and accentuate the blood red of carnivorous Audrey II's tongue; a game cast that includes Brandon Joel Maier as nerdy botanist Seymour and Phil Johnson as his boss (and later adoptive dad), Mr. Mushnik; a scene-setting do-wop girl chorus; and lots of fun '50s references for those old enough to recognize '50s references. The Old Town Theatre audience was not thrown by the nods—in the same song—to I Love Lucy and Father Knows Best.

The cleverness of Murray's staging is in the visual actualities that hark back to the era of Corman's cult film. The set is gray, the do-wop trio's attire is often gray and the backdrop of Mushnik's shop as is shadowy as a spider creeping up a wall in the dank darkness. For two hours, you might as well be inside an old Philco TV set.

The crazy dentist and all his doings are over-the-top, and don't expect a happy ending. But do expect Audrey and Audrey II both to amuse.

Little Shop of Horrors runs through Oct. 2 at the Old Town Theatre. $39-$59.

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Milk Like Sugar: In Kirsten Greenidge's coming-of-age play, a teen-age girl in a nowhere town makes a pregnancy pact with two of her high-school friends. Now in previews, it opens Sept. 7 at La Jolla Playhouse. $35 and up.

A Midsummer Night's Dream: Shakespeare's fanciful comedy about lovers, fairies and forest creatures gets a late-summer staging. Opens Sept. 2 at Coronado Playhouse and runs through Sept. 25. Free ($5 donation encouraged).

Now Playing

Hairspray: The venerable rock musical set in í60s Baltimore is based on the cult John Waters film. Through Sept. 3 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. $27-$50.

Engaging Shaw: Charlotte Payne-Townsend sets to romancing the iconic playwright George Bernard Shawóa job more complicated than any of his scripts. Through Sept. 4 at The Old Globe Theatreís Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in Balboa Park. $29-$67.

Grace: The real-estate boom comes back to bite a religious-minded Florida couple in this local premiere of Craig Wrightís play. Produced by Ion Theatre Company. Through Sept. 10 at BLKBOX @ 6th & Penn in Hillcrest. $10-$29.

Little Shop of Horrors: Seymour makes a Faustian bargain with a mean, green, man-eating plant to provide fresh meat in exchange for money, fame and the love of his life. Produced by Cygnet Theatre Company, it runs through Sept. 11 at The Old Town Theatre. $34-$59.

Amadeus: Composer Antonio Salieri throws up a series of roadblocks to sidetrack the career of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, his supposed archrival. Through Sept. 22 at The Old Globe Theatreís Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. $29-$67.

Much Ado about Nothing: While Beatrice and Benedick hide their infatuation beneath witty barbs, young love blossoms as Hero and Claudio race to the altar, with the wicked Don John conspiring to break up the wedding. Through Sept. 24 at The Old Globe Theatreís Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. $29-$67.

The Tempest: With the help of his spirit friend Ariel, the magician Prospero conjures up a shipwreck that restores his daughter to her rightful place in the Milan hierarchy. Through Sept. 25 at The Old Globe Theatreís Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. $29-$67.

Trying: Former chief judge of the Nuremberg Trials Francis Biddleís efforts to write his memoirs are complicated by help from a young assistant. Through Sept. 25 at Lambís Players Theatre in Coronado. $28-$58.

miXtape: Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s. Produced by Lambís Players Theatre, it runs through Nov. 6 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. $28-$58.

Shotgun Wedding Anniversary: How else can a miserable 25-year marriage end but in murder? Presented by Mystery Cafe, it's ongoing at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. $59.50, including dinner.


See all events on Monday, Oct 24