Last Chance for “Little Shop” at Slow Burn
By Skip Sheffield
Slow Burn Theatre bids a fond farewell to Boca Raton with the riotous musical “Little Shop of Horrors,” continuing through June 28 at West Boca Raton High School Performing Arts Auditorium. Starting in October Slow Burn will be resident theater company of Broward Center for the Arts.
Slow Burn began very modestly five years ago in an out-of-the-way location for South Florida theatergoers, specializing in little-known or little-performed theater pieces. “Little Shop” is an exception. Based on a 1960 Roger Corman cult classic, Little Shop was rewritten for the stage in 1982 by Howard Ashman, with catchy 1950s-1960s style pop music by Alan Menkin. It ran for five years Off-Broadway.
The mood is set by the title song opener “Little Shop of Horrors,” sung by a close harmony female trio named after famous girl-groups: Ronette (Nicole Dikon), Crystal (Christina Alexander) and Chiffon (Elisa Dannielle).
Seymour Krelborn (Mike Westrich) is a born loser, literally. He was born and abandoned by his parents on Skid Row, USA (every city has one). A flower shop owner named Mr. Mushnik (Slow Burn co-founder and executive director Matthew Korinko) took pity on hapless Seymour and hired him as an assistant- though not a very good one.
Audrey (Amy Miller Brennan) makes her grand entrance into Mushnik’s shop (another wonderful design by Sean McClelland) at 2 p.m., apologizing for her tardiness. Seymour, who secretly adores Audrey, can’t help but notice she has a black eye. Audrey says she has had an accident. Seymour knows better. Most likely she has been hit by her abusive boyfriend, Orin Scrivello, D.D.S. (Shane Tanner). Orin is a sadist who wears a black leather jacket and rides a motorcycle.
Orin (and more than a half-dozen others, including Life magazine publisher Claire Boothe Luce) is the real-life husband of Amy Miller Brennan, all tarted up in tight, low-cut dresses and a platinum wig. Perhaps this real chemistry helped Amy deliver her best performance ever at Slow Burn. Her powerful voice is a natural wonder. She sells Audrey’s anguish in an uproariously funny over-the-top manner.
Audrey is the namesake of Audrey II, the infamous plant that thrives on human blood, nurtured by Seymour. The role calls for a deep male voice and director/choreographer Patrick Fitzwater found it in Geoffrey Short. The larger Audrey II puppets are manipulated by Rick Pena, who designed the period costumes as well. Andrew Gilbert leads an onstage but unseen band that includes Caryl Fantel on keyboards, Roy Fantel on percussion, Guillermo Gonzalez on guitars and Pat Ward on bass. This outfit plays rock-solid in late-1950s, early-1960s style, though most were not even born yet.
The original film was more silly than scary. That’s why the stage show is even sillier. Fitzwater has the good sense to whip through the proceedings in about 90 minutes. Clever as it is, “Little Shop” does not inspire deep thinking. It’s strictly for laughs, and laughs it delivers.
Tickets are $40 general admission and $25 students. Call 866-811-4111 or go to www.slowburntheatre.org.
“Marie’s Story” a French Helen Keller
If you are looking for something a lot more serious and heart-moving, there is the lovely French film “Marie’s Story,” directed and co-written by Jean-Pierre Ameris, and recipient of numerous awards in Europe.
The film is based on the true story of Marie Huertin, born deaf and blind in 19th century France. Unlike Helen Keller, Marie was also a savage; subject to fits of uncontrollable rage. In desperation her parents sent her to Larnay Institute near Poitiers, France, run by the Catholic Sisters of Wisdom.
Larnay was a school for deaf girls. Since Marie was also blind and violent, the Mother Superior (Brigitte Catillon) did not want to admit her. Marie found an ally in young Sister Marguerite (Cesar Award-winner Isabel Carre), a woman of infinite patience. Sister Marguerite found a key to communicate with a 14-year-old girl locked in her world of silence and darkness. It was a small pen knife; her most cherished possession. If you need a dose of inspiration, Marie’s Story” is playing at FAU’s Living Room Theaters.