Little Shop of Horrors: A Theatrical Review
The Encore Youth Theatre has succeeded in a fanatical triumph under the direction of Allisan Whitman with their current production of Little Shop of Horrors. The AVO Playhouse in Vista, CA has found an outrageous success, playing to nearly a full house every night, which they would be wise to repeat again and again.
The punchy Little Shop of Horrors by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman has found a cast, youth filled or not, that understands the outrageous production about an orphaned flower shop worker who discovers and cultivates a man eating plant he has named after the one woman he has fallen in love with. This whimsical love story with a disturbing essence as its drive is filled with diminutive comedic points which actually develop an appealing draw to devotees.
An absolutely phenomenal puppetry design, controlled by actor Tim Cabal takes over the life of young love-struck Seymour, delightfully played by a young Drew Bradford, offering him all the desires of his heart in exchange to making certain that it (the plant) receives the nutrition it desires. The love of Seymour’s life Audrey, played by an extremely talented Helena Woods, has to figure out that an abusive relationship with Orin Scrivello (played by Logan Wilson) a Machiavellian dentist with a love of causing pain and suffering, is not in her best interest. Sadly, rather than having the message of escaping dangerous relationships within the script, Orin simply over doses on his own nitrous-oxide and becomes the first meal of Seymour’s new found devil plant. One might think that this love story somehow comes to a positive ending, but for fear of giving away the writer’s surprise ending, I will leave the facts to the audience who choose to experience the show for themselves. You might be surprised?
Though this production is one done by youth theatre, please know that these young people are more than capable at proving that age does not always mean ability. Yes, they are all under eighteen years of age, but this is a fact that leaves the audience’s mind within the first three minutes of the program. To that end, I would like to spotlight three young performers who have succeeded in truly exceptional renditions of their characters.
First, Helena Woods, who portrays Audrey with such a convincing mastery that the audience is unable to decide if indeed she doesn’t actually identify with this character personally. Add to this fact that this little lady has a knock-out voice, and I am certain that she will only be stopped in the world of theatrical arts by her own decisions. I truly hope that Helena continues to work with powerful mentors like director Allisan Whitman, and also that she has dynamic guidance from loving parents to help protect her from the machine that is Hollywood.
Secondly Drew Bradford who portrays the show’s hero, Seymour, and is a uniquely talented young man who appears to be able to reach any heights he reaches for. His vocals, dancing abilities, and acting skills are advanced enough that the audience member viewing his performance for the first time might wonder if he started performing before he was even born. It takes time for any actor to mature in their abilities, but this young man seems to be running with advanced momentum.
Finally Austin Cook, who portrays the befuddled Mr. Mushnik (owner of the flower shop where the show takes place), and who is on his way to a theatrical career of his own. Though the script does offer a great deal to Austin in the way of extensive vocals or opportunity to change up his acting style, after having been in the world of theatrical arts for over thirty years now, I can tell that this young man has what it takes to become a genuine success.
My compliments to Director/Choreographer Allisan Whitman who along with Musical Director Sean Tamburrino and Producer Ralph McMillan, has helped this young group of performers excel as theatre players, not just students playing in theatre. The passion and respect that these individuals have for both the art of theatre as well as the love of kids and helping their dreams carefully come true is obvious. Thank goodness for professionals who realize that working with youth theatre is investing in the future! Job Well Done!
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