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'Little Shop' will grow on you

It's campy, sassy — and packed with talent

Seymour Krelborn (Anthony Rapp) with cute little Audrey II, the mysterious, carnivorous plant he nurtures in "The Little Shop of Horrors."
Seymour Krelborn (Anthony Rapp) with cute little Audrey II, the mysterious, carnivorous plant he nurtures in "The Little Shop of Horrors."
Craig Schwartz

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, Capitol Theatre, through Oct. 31 (355-2787 or www.arttix.org). Running time: two hours (one intermission).

It's a little bit campy and a little bit rock 'n' roll — and fiendishly fun.

After getting its 2004-05 season off to a rather rocky start (with an "Oliver!" opening night that audiences could not hear), the Broadway in Utah series redeems itself with a touring version of the recent revival of "Little Shop of Horrors" — just in time for the Halloween season.

Instead of wanting mini-size Snickers, however, the central character in this musical version of Roger Corman's notorious film has a bottomless appetite for fresh blood. And not from the corner butcher shop, either.

Things were a little scary on Tuesday night when the show was delayed about 20 minutes. The restless audience was probably wondering if there was going to be another opening-night disaster. But once the curtain went up, all went smoothly.

With hilarious lyrics by the late Howard Ashman (who also wrote the book) and a terrific musical score by composer Alan Menken, this show is a blast.

And — even better — the high-tech, larger-than-life puppet that is Audrey II, worked like clockwork.

As touring shows go, this has a relatively small cast — only 10 performers. But they're all terrific.

Anthony Rapp (who played Mark Cohen in the original Broadway cast of "Rent" — and who, according to Playbill, is on the short list of possibilities to re-create that role in the film version) — is perfectly cast as the nerdish Seymour.

He's a clumsy employee in Mushnik's failing Skid Row floral shop, until he stumbles across a strange plant with Venus Fly Trap tendencies. Seymour names it Audrey II, after the colleague he adores from afar — blonde and battered Audrey, whose boyfriend is a sadistic dentist, Orin Scrivello.

Audrey is played by Tari Kelly, who has a knockout voice. James Moye delivers as Orin who is demonically mean — and surfaces later in the show as several other characters, all hoping to capitalize on Seymour and Audrey II's fame.

"I know Seymour's the greatest, but I'm dating a semi-sadist," Audrey sings, while longing for a tract house in the country.

Lenny Wolpe is also a commanding presence as Mushnik, the flower shop owner who, in an attempt to keep Seymour from leaving, decides to adopt him.

There's also a sort of backstreet Greek chorus — Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette (Yasmeen Sulieman, Amina S. Robinson and LaTonya Holmes), who connect all the elements with sassy, insightful musical commentary and choral backup.

Unseen (except for a brief onstage role as a derelict), but certainly heard is Michael James Leslie, who provides the voice of Audrey II — the plant that grows completely out of control as it develops a huge thirst for fresh blood.

Kudos, too, to the puppeteers (Michael Latini and Paul McGinnis) and Brent-Alan Huffman's pit musicians.

Sensitivity rating: It may be comedic but it's also too grisly for young audiences.


E-mail: ivan@desnews.com