Review by Danny Gaisin
The ridiculous concept behind the 1960 B-movie and subsequent off-Broadway presentations led to a big-budget film 25 years later directed by Frank Oz of Muppet & Sesame Street fame. A voracious Venus Flytrap; an amateur botanist; a failing flower retailer located in the slums; and a terrific trio of back-up singers provide all the ingredients for an evening of mirthfulness and entertainment…but only if done as professionally as possible. BurlOak Theatre group and director Mike Ranieri have staged something faultless. Attending a final dress rehearsal meant that this scribe was accorded the opportunity to observe the stage manager’s (Greg Stanton) last chance for his ‘technical tweaking’.
Result, another opportunity to appreciate what this part of the production team can and must accomplish.
Ranieri is a highly focused director and seems to put his imprimatur on even the most minute of details. Utilizing an incredibly creative set designed by Ron Remingo and building around a floral organism who size and appetite constantly increase, the live cast members must give full thespian efforts in order to keep pace. Fortunately, they are all up to, and even surpass, the task. The purported hero is Seymour, a geeky underling in awe of his boss and enamoured by the salesgirl who is in a physically distressful relationship. Even the name Seymour carries a connotation, and Vincent Perri epitomizes a definitive nebbish. His look, stature, hesitancies and demeanour are all character delineations. His pleasant singing voice and projection made him a perfect choice for the roll. His inamorata – ‘Audrey’ is Emma Smith and she is a worthy foil; opponent; and then love object for Perri’s character. Her vocals are all duet and she proves fully able to hold her own.
The scene stealers, (except for the veggie) are the fantastic trio of Julia Dmytryshyn; Sara DaSilva; and Julia Pulo. They are the chorus; they are the neighbours; and they are occasional catalysts that facilitate other character entries and exits. Though a team,the ladies all exhibit their own diverse personalities thus bringing credibility to their portrayals. We especially enjoyed their naughty schoolgirl roles. Costume designer Jennifer Newnham has outdone (outdid?) herself in the way the trio is outfitted. Their voices blend well and all three dance together as if mirror-images.
In the support roles; Cyril Johnston is a convincing Jewish shop owner and seems comfortable with the Yiddish isms sprinkled about. As the brutish boyfriend cum sadistic dentist – Malakai Vieira has all the style, voice and charisma suited for a ‘Danny’ in Grease; or a ‘Birdie” in the eponymous ‘Bye, Bye Birdie’.
Back to the set; it’s one of the most imaginative we’ve seen on the Oakville Centre’s stage.
Spoiler Alert -incorporating graffiti tributes to Bernstein’s “West Side Story” and Frank Loesser’s “Guys and Dolls” are especially touching. Well done, and ingenious.
The oversized broccoli is named ‘Audrey II’ and audiences will only get to meet her operators if they attend LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS before it closes on April 22nd. It’s a fun way to spend an evening (or matinee). Given the obvious effort that went into staging it makes it deserving of a full audience.