by Beki Pineda

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS – Books and Lyrics by Howard Ashman; Music by Alan Menken; Directed by Kelly McAllister. Produced by Parker Arts; Presented by Sasquatch Productions (at the PACE Center, 20000 East Pikes Peak Avenue, Parker) through July 18. Tickets available at 303-805-6800 or parkerarts.org.

If you are one of those people who love the bouncy energy of LITTLE SHOP, you have plenty of opportunities to satisfy your inner Seymour or Audrey this summer and fall with a production opening soon in Grand Lake and another this fall at Town Hall. But the current production at the PACE Center in Parker – courtesy of Sasquatch Productions – checks all the LITTLE SHOP boxes. Winsome Audrey – check! Needy Seymour – check!  Vicious Dr. Orin, D.D.S. – check! Monstrous Audrey II – check!

Director McAllister has pulled together a talented energetic cast and adorned his production with tiny beautiful things to add atmosphere and charm. A bell over the door of Mushnik’s Floral Shop; elaborate steam punk shadows on the wall of the dentist office; Audrey II add-ons vine that drape across the walls. The large playing space at the PACE Center gave the cast lots of room for dance moves and a full-sized floral shop. The great look of this show was enhanced by Kevin Newton’s powerful lighting design. Mounting danger was announced with bright reds as Audrey II gets more ominous while pinks and greens accompanied the sweet love scenes. With an ensemble of only six or seven, the choreography created by Heather Westenskow was built around Broadway-type moves that gave juice and bounce to the production. It was so much fun to watch. Tanner Kelly provided guidance for the singers and pulled stellar performances out of everyone in the cast. The five piece on-stage band was led by the always brilliant Trent Hines. It was evident that everyone on stage was having a good time.

Special kudos go to Matthew Mcavene Creations who built the four ever-growing Audrey II’s. Moses Brown provided his/her (?) voice with Maggie Ortiz giving him/her movement.

The show starts with the upbeat “Skid Row” led by Sonsharae Tull, Camryn Nailah Torres, and Eli Harvey as the Street Girls functioning as a sort of Greek Chorus. They tell the story as it progresses, encourage both Seymour and Audrey to follow through on their feelings; they harassed the villainous dentist and helped Mushnik hang on to his shop.  Chase Conlin creates a needy nerdy Seymour who is sympathetic and charming all at the same time. It’s easy to see how Audrey could develop a crush on him. Audrey herself, played by the very talented Brekken Baker, has a soaring voice and a winning vulnerability. Once her “boyfriend” Orin the dentist (played by August Stoten) shows his evil side, the audience just wants to protect Audrey and laugh along with Orin as he laughs himself to death. Carter Edward Smith was a strong Mushnik whose performance was probably stronger for having played Seymour not that long ago. He and Chase did a wonderful job with the song “Mushnik & Son” finding all the humor and nuance in the lyrics. All in all, a strong singing, dancing, acting cast gives joy to the story and to the audience.

Everyone rejoices that theatres are beginning to open up again. The opening night audience was enthusiastic and exuberant – with good reason.

A WOW factor of 9!!

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