Little Shop of Horrors may not be the happiest musical, but there’s something about a plant wreaking havoc on a bunch of downtrodden folks that might offer a bit of momentary schadenfreude. And if you don’t get it from that, Town Hall’s production is likely to scratch your itch for a well-designed production bursting with talent.
For Littleton’s Town Hall Art Center, the oversized campiness of the show lends itself well to the intimate space. Directed by Bob Wells, with music direction by Donna K Debreceni and choreography by Kelly Kates, the production’s energy and and timing is matched by a spectacular lighting design by Brett Maughan and simplistic yet detail set design by Michael Duran. Another special shoutout to some amazing costumes designed by Terri Fong-Schmidt.
If you’re somehow unfamiliar with the classic story, it follows Seymour (Carter Edward Smith), a flower shop worker who acquires a new plant that demands to be fed. The shop is owned by owned by Mr Mushnik (Jim Hitzke). Seymour names it Audrey II (voiced by Preston Adams), after the coworker he’s in love with (Abby McInerney), but she’s in an abusive relationship with demented dentist, Orin (Charlie Schmidt). While the plant’s growth skyrockets the shop to fame, it also has other plans for world domination. The cast also features a wonderful trio of Urchins (Anna Maria High as Crystal, Faith Goins as Ronnette, and Rajdulari as Chiffon).
Smith’s Seymour is perfectly nerdy and likable, as you’d expect from him. His love Audrey is played with a lovely complexity by McInerney, who shines brightest in her strong notes. Hitzke feels right at home in his portrayal of Mushnik. Schmidt’s Orin has a fabulous cackle, which is only a sprinkle on his comedic wit. Adam’s voices Audrey II like James Brown has inhabited the beast, also giving it an incredible laugh. In classic fashion, both Adams and Schmidt tackle multiple extra roles, which really showcases Schmidt’s humorous range. Each of the Urchins get many opportunities to shine with satisfying beltiness, and the trio’s harmonies are smooth and balanced.
The show feels like a welcome escape into a familiar world, showcasing a variety of talents all in one place. They say don’t feed the plants, but in this case, the plant really feeds you — and it’s delicious.
Little Shop of Horrors plays Town Hall Arts Center through March 6.
WINTER WONDERETTES – Written by Roger Bean; Musical Arrangement by Roger Bean and Brian Baker; Directed by Robert Wells. Produced by Town Hall Arts Center (2450 West Main, Littleton) through December 26. Tickets available at 303-794-ARTS or townhallartscenter.org.
If the Wonderettes took up tartan, they would be the Plaids. If the Plaids wore pastel dresses, they would be the Wonderettes. But they don’t, so four very talented young women get to fill the pastel dresses and sing the holiday songs. The “plot”- what there is of it – is only an excuse to get the ladies out on the stage where they can explore the Christmas songbook.
The ladies are all employees of the local hardware store and are the entertainment for the office Christmas party. Halfway through they discover that their Christmas bonusses are all slightly pink. Excitement and anticipation of a year-end reward for hard work turns into disappointment and anger. The show almost comes to a screeching halt. But the girls decide to “go on with the show” like the real troopers they are.
Most of the music is delightful versions of songs that invite you to sing along. “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and, of course, their signature song – “Winter Wonderland.” But there are a few little known holiday songs sprinkled throughout the libretto that surprise and delight. “We Want to See Santa Do the Mambo” and “Suzy Snowflake,” for instance. But the song that stopped the show for a quiet moment and brought tears to everyone’s eyes as we each remembered the childhood wonder of the holiday season was “All the Christmas Cliches” sung by Abby McInerney who totally nailed it. It tells the journey of a person who never made much of Christmas. But now that she is older, she wants the whole holiday scene. The tree – the cookies for Santa – the kids to tuck in tight – the reindeer on the front lawn – the whole Christmas schtick.
All those Christmas clichés
Give’em to me
Just in time for a holiday
Hit me with those out of the ballpark
Happy and Hallmark Christmas clichés.
The girls – Rebekah Ortiz, Cara Lippitt, Caitlin Hilzer and Abby – all got great solo numbers and quartets with authentic 60’s girl group dance steps, compliments of Kelly Kates, the choreographer. Their “in the style of” pastel dresses were designed by Costumer Linda Morken. The hardware store was designed by Douglas Clarke, built by Mike Haas and his crew, and dressed by Becky Toma. And, of course, the music was supported by Donna Debreceni and her long time cohorts, Scott Smith on bass and Larry Ziehl on percussion.
Yes, it’s a light weight script and uses a lot of familiar music. But when it’s done this well, you don’t seem to mind. You just sit back in your seat and let the Christmas spirit seep into your pores. Sometimes you just need that.
A WOW factor of 8.5!!
Area theaters are opening again and I happily attended two performances on the weekend of Nov. 6-7 — very different, but both engaging: “American Son” by Christopher Demos-Brown at Curious Theatre in Denver and “Winter Wonderettes” by Roger Bean at Littleton Town Hall Arts Center.
“American Son,” by trial lawyer/playwright Demos-Brown, played on Broadway, with Kerry Washington as the mother. It’s set in the could-be-in-any-county waiting room at the Dade County, Florida, Courthouse, with chairs for those who need to wait for their time in court, an American flag, county insignia in a frame, a clock, harsh lighting — and space to pace. The stage set’s blandness sets off the tense story well.
“It is a play that gives us a glimpse into the fears and concerns that almost every parent of a Black male child in this country faces on a regular basis, especially in interactions with police,” wrote director Jada Suzanne Dixon, who also performs the role of Kendra Ellis-Connor, a Black mother, whose son is missing as lights go up on the Curious stage. (He’s a mild-mannered kid who once burst into tears over “Puff the Magic Dragon,” she says.)
“There’s been an incident,” says tense young white Officer Paul Larkin (Sean Scrutchins), in reply to her questioning. He stalls about more information, while she presses, growing increasingly frantic over her son’s whereabouts.
Her white husband, Scott (Josh Robinson), an FBI agent, arrives — sputtering and aggressive — “He’s going to West Point, went to private schools — I won’t put up with him regressing,” Scott says. “Obviously something happened.” (We learn that Scott has walked out on mother and son recently.)
“He was driving around with two other black males in the car,” the officer tells him — which he hadn’t told the mother.
What transpires is predictable, but the tension is with us until the end of this well-crafted piece.
Abner Genece, forceful as Lt. John Stokes, is the fourth character, who enters the one-act late.
“American Son” keeps the audience engaged and the cast is strong. Chip Walton, Curious founder, said he and Dixon had both seen the play in New York and compared notes, agreeing that it was a good fit for Curious.
Given the skills of the cast, crew and director involved, (all member of Actors Equity) — I’d hope to see some exploration of material that was not quite so predictably “a good fit” for Curious. They have created works that stretched talents further afield in the past.
“American Son” plays through Dec. 11 at Curious Theatre Company, 1080 Acoma St., Denver, curioustheatre.org.
“Winter Wonderettes” finds this singing group of young women, whom we have met before at Town Hall, six years later in Springfield, performing at the Harper’s Hardware Holiday Party … Bob Wells directed the well-blended voices of Missy (Rebekah Ortiz) Cindy Lou (Abby McInerney), Suzy (Cara Lippitt) and Betty Jean (Caitlin Hilzer) into a program of seasonal music, mostly familiar, with live accompaniment (always a plus) by Donna Kolpan Debreceni on the keyboard; Scott Alan Smith on bass and Larry Ziehl on percussion.
The smooth and lively singers, clad in pastel velvet dresses with a bit of lace trim, were choreographed by Kelly Kates, which adds an extra professional polish to the show, in addition to Wells’ skilled direction of well-blended voices.
Many selections are warmly familiar, starting with “A Marshmallow World,” and including the traditional “O Tannenbaum” and “Santa Baby” but also include some we may not have heard, like “We Wanna See Santa Do the Mambo!”
I love the idea of children being included in holiday entertainment outings and the elementary-age kids seated in front of me seemed thoroughly engaged, as well as obviously pleased with wearing party dresses. This is a good choice for younger family members, though probably not the teeny folks, who might prefer Frosty or Santa …
The cheery set with tree and fireplace adds to the atmosphere.
“Winter Wonderettes” plays through Dec. 26 and alternates with “Plaid Tidings,” directed by Nick Sugar, which runs through Jan. 2. A great contrast appears in late January with “Little Shop of Horrors,” directed by Bob Wells. (Jan. 28 to March 6.) townhallartscenter.org, or 303-794-2787.