After a couple of rocky – in just about every sense of the word – years, Tulsa Project Theatre is rebooting itself to mark the company’s 10th anniversary.
And the first kick of this boot is a new production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” which opened Friday, Oct. 25, at the Tulsa PAC.
Most of the shows Tulsa Project Theatre has planned for the next two seasons are revivals, ranging from family-oriented musicals to more adult fare.
“Little Shop of Horrors,” which the company has not presented in the past, is something of a hybrid of the extremes of the company’s programming.
There is a cartoonish quality to this tale of an awkward fellow who discovers a strange and extremely interesting plant that requires a rather alarming type of plant food to thrive that could appeal to the younger set. But the campy, dark humor that fuels this piece makes it very much a show for a slightly older generation.
Based on the 1960 low-budget film by Roger Corman, the musical was written by composer Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who would go on to pen shows for Disney, including “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid.”
But there is little that is Disneyesque about what goes on at Mushnik’s Flower Shop, located in the depths of New York’s Skid Row. It’s here that Seymour (Ben Rodriguez) has been trying to nurture a plant he bought from a broker in exotic flora.
He’s also hoping to nurture a relationship with his co-worker Audrey (Kayleen Speer), a good-hearted if soft-headed young woman who is caught up in an abusive relationship with Orin Scivello (Chad Oliverson), a dentist who enjoys his work a little too much.
Seymour accidently discovers that the only sort of food his plant, which he’s dubbed Audrey II, will consume is human blood. The few drops Seymour manages to squeeze out of what soon become his heavily bandaged fingers are enough to make Audrey II grow to epic proportions – and become an attraction that turns Mushkin’s failing shop into a roaring success and makes Seymour something of a star in the horticultural world.
But as Audrey II grows, so grows her appetite and her very vocal demands. And mild-mannered Seymour must decide if the possibilities that Audrey II promises — fortune, fame, a chance at romance with the real Audrey — outweigh the terrible things he will have to do to quiet the shouts of “Feed me!”
The Saturday night performance had some technical issues. If Carson Decker’s lighting design was supposed to have the first half of the first act shrouded in murk, it added nothing to the experience. And the combination of slightly overamped microphones and less than pristine enunciation robbed some of the songs and dialogue of their comic punch.
Rodriguez and Speer are very good as the nerdy nebbish Seymour and the hapless Audrey, maintaining an aura of innocence while tossing body parts into the maw of a man-eating plant or dealing with collateral damage of life with a sadist.
As said sadist, Oliverson blends menace, charm and camp in equal measure as the “leader of the plaque,” while the trio of Shannon Walsh, Cristen Burdell and Alyssa Brown serves as a sassy Greek chorus. Nicholas Cains brings booming voice to the role of Audrey II.
Juan Reinoso directs, with the indefatigable Lise Lahmeyer Malicoate serving as choreographer and music director.
“Little Shop of Horrors” continues with performances through Nov. 3 at the Tulsa PAC. For tickets: 918-596-7111, tulsapac.com.