Down on Skid Row

QMT’s Little Shop Of Horrors isn’t exactly Bretch, but you won’t care because of all the bright colours and singing hobos

Kristen Martin, Dani Kostrich and Lauren Jackson hustle and flow.
Kristen Martin, Dani Kostrich and Lauren Jackson hustle and flow.
Photo: 
Peter Nielsen and Emily Richardson.
Peter Nielsen and Emily Richardson.
Photo: 
Nicole Buscema as Audrey.
Nicole Buscema as Audrey.
Photo: 

The age-old story of a boy’s obsession and eventual downfall all because of a little green plant is legend known to many.

No, Queen’s Musical Theatre hasn’t produced Reefer Madness. I meant “little green plant” literally, potheads. Instead, QMT has decided to go with the Rick Moranis classic, not Hunny, I Shrunk The Kids, but Little Shop of Horrors. A cult classic and musical-theatre nerd’s dream, this production may not you have discussing at length its thematic concerns or symbolism, but it’s an entertaining break from whatever stress may be going on in your life.

I’m continually amazed by the Rotunda Theatre space, always transformed in some new way to fit the needs of different plays. Little Shop of Horrors is set in what looks like it could be The Bronx circa 1989. In the concrete jungle sits what will become the Little Shop of Horrors, a run-down depressed flower shop on Skid Row. But make no mistake—the tramps and vagrants of this Skid Row sure can sing. Wouldn’t life be swell if it were actually a musical? Poverty, spousal abuse and kinky sexual desires are a bit easier to swallow when sung.

On the unfortunate urban street lives our luckless but loveable protagonist Seymour Krelborn played pitch-perfectly by Peter Nielsen. Seymour spends his days pining over his unrequited love and co-worker, Audrey, played by Nicole Buscema. Shop owner and calloused boss Mrs. Mushnik is the two’s daily terror. Mushnik is played flawlessly by Emily Richardson. With just the right amount of crotchetiness and attitude, Richardson’s performance isn’t overdone, which is probably why it stands out in the already colourful world of the musical.

Narrated by three hustling girls on the block, played with ample amounts of energy and sass by Lauren Jackson, Dani Kostrich and Kristen Martin, we follow Seymour as he acquires a mysterious plant. Soon the plant begins growing, only after it’s fed a bit of blood. The rare and unusual plant soon attracts customers to the flower shop and has everyone singing, literally, Seymour’s praises. But the plant’s penchant for blood soon gets Seymour into trouble, for obvious reasons. Seymour’s sudden celebrity status and newly successful love life soon get out of hand and he’s forced to make some tough decisions.

The standout in this production is Alyssa LeClaire, who plays the greedy villain, Audrey II. LeClaire channels Aretha Franklin in her soulful turn as the menacing potted plant. I have a feeling one day we’ll be paying much more to hear LeClaire’s voice than the modest $15 QMT charges at the door. Backed by a tiny, but mighty live band lead by musical director Réjean Campbell, LeClaire shines.

Little Shop of Horrors is a mix of various time periods, genres and anachronisms. With an R&B-inspired score, a 1980s setting and a muddle of different characters, the musical is pure entertainment. Originally a B-movie released in 1960s and then made into a musical in 1986, the Little Shop of Horrors script does feel a bit dated. The writing isn’t perfect, but the actors and director Sarah Bruckschwaiger do their part to infuse energy and new life into the piece. Tim Burton is also rumoured to be remaking the musical for the screen with his eccentric muse, Johnny Depp. This musical might just be on the verge of a comeback.
Little Shop of Horrors runs tonight, tomorrow night and Sunday. Tickets are $15 for students and $20 for adults and available at the door.

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