GG play dazzles crowds

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Celebrating its 10 year anniversary, Orange County’s Arts & Learning Conservatory “planted” itself on Garden Grove’s impressive Freed Theater Stage with its lively

production of the eerie ‘60s Rock ‘n Roll musical, "Little Shop of Horrors," and the enthusiastic crowd happily “devoured” every last bite of the doo-wopping carnivorous  leafy green plant life.

Celebrating its 10 year anniversary, Orange County’s Arts & Learning Conservatory “planted” itself on Garden Grove’s impressive Freed Theater Stage with its lively

production of the eerie ‘60s Rock ‘n Roll musical, "Little Shop of Horrors," and the enthusiastic crowd happily “devoured” every last bite of the doo-wopping carnivorous  leafy green plant life.

Written and composed by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, Little Shop is analogous to such mid-century sci-fi B-movie favorites as “Plan B” and “The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes,” but there was nothing even remotely old-fashioned about the exuberance that exploded from Arts & Learning’s well-rehearsed young cast.

Most folks know the basis of the story. Hapless Seymour Krelborn (Anthony Kutscher) and vulnerable Audrey (Danielle Gauss) are both employees in Mushnik’s dilapidated Skid Row flower shop. As the storefront business is teetering on the verge of closing its doors, Seymour and Audrey are both dreaming of greener pastures.

Seymour secretly pines for Audrey but assumes she’s out of his league. Audrey wants out of the asphalt jungle and yearns for her idea of the “American Dream” – a loving husband, white picket fence, a garden, a 12-inch screen TV (OK, folks, giant flat screens weren’t invented yet), but she doesn’t believe that she is good enough for a nice guy like Krelborn. And then… there’s that “strange and unusual plant” that Seymour soon discovers. He names it Audrey II after… well, you know. “Twoey” draws curious paying customers into the shop, business is booming, so the question is: could dreams be coming true? Audrey’s sadistic biker boyfriend, Orin Scrivello (Dakota Denton) is still in the picture.

What to do?

The ravenous Audrey II may have a tempting reply. Oddly, in A & L’s production, the cantankerous store owner, Mr. Mushnik was nowhere in sight, and in his place stood the tetchy Mrs. Mushnik (Dora Castillo).

A female Mushnik took some getting used to, especially in the fun-loving “Mushnik and Son” song and dance number, but ultimately, Castillo pulled it off beautifully and caused her own waves of belly laughs from the audience.

Another noticeable change in the show was that the “Greek-chorus” trio was instead a sextet of black-haired bouffant beauties, Elise Ybarra, Grace Shackelford, Alexandra Denton, Sarah Peters, Olivia Castillo, and Kai Yoshida, who delightfully moved the storyline along.

Music direction by Kevin Weed featuring Weed on keyboard, Andre Rossignol

on guitar, Chris Booke on bass, and Jeff Segal on drums gave the recognizable music

its effervescence and vibrancy.

Kutscher played the shy and nerdy Seymour to perfection. Gauss added sweetness and frailty to Audrey, and Denton was deliciously evil as the cruel and disturbed Orin.

Audrey II and AJ Reiser brought the plant to life with a wonderfully powerful and commanding voice.

Mention also to Colin Severn as The Narrator, Leyla Rakshani as Mrs. Luce/Mom/Customer, Thalia Feliciano as Radio Announcer Patricia Martin, Joseph Adams as Snip Snip, and Kendra, the Puppeteer.

A & L’s Little Shop of Horrors was a marvelously well-done and wonderfully entertaining show to attend, unless, of course you had a paper cut on your finger…

For information on classes or future productions, contact Arts & Learning Conservatory, 1518 Brookhollow Drive, Santa Ana, CA 92705 at 714-728.7100, or visit www.artsandlearning.org

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