If, thanks to youth or agoraphobia, you've never seen the 1982 musical stage version of Little Shop of Horrors, you've missed something special. Strange story short, nebbishy Seymour Krelborn tries to escape Skid Row by raising a bloodthirsty plant. He names the diabolical alien flytrap Audrey II (Audrey Junior in Roger Corman's original 1960 B-movie) in homage to his buxom blonde coworker, cooed memorably by Ellen Greene off Broadway and in Frank Oz's 1986 movie adaptation. Audrey I gets the honor of belting the lovely Ashman/Menken ballad "Somewhere That's Green," which its composers practically rewrote as "Part of Your World" for 1989's The Little Mermaid. It'd be all but impossible to play Audrey any better than Greene played her; so for Capital Playhouse's Kids at Play version, Alessa Daniel doesn't try very hard to do otherwise.
It's tough to pull off a polished Little Shop. The broad, multiethnic characters are tricky to cast without tipping into stereotype, an issue this production largely avoids. Even tougher is Audrey II itself, which grows from a mere spud to the floral equivalent of a T-Rex. Capital's flora is puppeteered by Anthony Toney and voiced by Miles Forte. Nick Main's Orin Scrivello, DDS, owes as much to Tim Curry as to Steve Martin, and it works. (Don't search for Bill Murray's masochist, Arthur Denton, though; he doesn't appear in stage productions.) The triune Greek chorus is well cast, and I enjoyed Jordan Mullins as Seymour - even if he is too darn handsome for the role.
Bruce Haasl's multifunctional set nods in the direction of Sesame Street, and Troy Arnold Fisher's keyboards and combo are on point. The production suffers from a bit of school-play sloppiness, but enthusiasm (and skillful choreography by Patrick Wigren and director Heidi Fredericks) covers a multitude of sins.
The summer Kids at Play program moves so quickly that this will be its only production lasting longer than one weekend. For that reason, while I will be seeing another show, I won't be reviewing it here. Instead, I'll take this opportunity to promote what looks to be a delightfully entertaining (and reasonably priced!) summer program. Next weekend brings The Wiz, Charlie Smalls's 1974 "Super Soul Musical" version of The Wizard of Oz. The first weekend in August is devoted to Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, followed by the irresistible "Hard Knock Life" of Annie. I'll be at Fisher's production of the Les Misérables "School Edition," opening Aug. 17, which somehow manages to pack most of the 1985 epic's songs into two hours. It'll be a great refresher course for Tom Hooper's movie version, which opens in December. I can't wait.
At last Sunday's matinee of Little Shop, my wife and I couldn't take our eyes off a kindergarten-sized audience member. He sat in the front row, whispered eagerly to his mom (I'm guessing), and broke into hysterical squeals after every pratfall. His eyes went big as hubcaps when the larger Audrey IIs were revealed, and he sat in pure rapture through every twist and turn. Kids at Play, it looks like that kid is headed your way soon. Break a leg, little dude.
[Capital Playhouse Kids at Play, Little Shop of Horrors, Fri.-Sun. 7:30 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m., $18, 612 E. Fourth Ave., Olympia, 360.943.2744]