Take a seat at the drive-in for Little Shop of Horrors at the Randolph Theatre in Toronto
Begin with a night at the drive-in. Ok, not exactly, but do play along. It’s your average Thursday night, weekend on the horizon. The typical teenage drama unravels in and around the crowd, it’s best not to get involved. Then it’s time, hurry back from the concession stand and quiet down, movie’s starting – Little Shop of Horrors.
You might remember the movie that starred Rick Moranis as Seymour or have at least seen this play in another live production. Your high school may have added this to their repertoire, I know mine did. In whichever way, this story brings back memories, the music, the humor, perhaps horror, and the delightfully campy lyrical trio Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette. If this is all new to you, relax, you’re in for a treat.
UC Follies takes on this current production at the Randolph Theatre in a youthful rendition. The story follows Seymour Krelborn (Mark Ferrari), a meek and quiet man, clumsy but smart and endearingly pathetic. He works at a failing flower shop with the owner Mr. Mushnik (Jeff Kennes), a greedy stereotypical Jewish man concerned with his plummeting sales and reputation. Audrey (Madeline Foley), his co-worker and secret crush stuck in a terribly abusive relationship with sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello (James King). In Seymour’s botanical tinkering in the shop’s basement, he develops an eerily mysterious carnivorous plant that he’s named Audrey Two (Jaymie Sampa) – a plant that desires not plant food or water, but human blood.
Arriving at the Randolph, my date Josh and I found ourselves walking into an escalating argument in the crowd. We tentatively took our seats and watched another dispute blossom before us. Everyone involved dressed like they were in a 50s drive-in. We quickly assumed they were actors. While the teenage bickering continued, the live orchestra took their positions and warmed up – adding to the cacophony already taking place. The chaos finally settled for the show.
The performance began with the lyrical trio (Zena Gopal as Crystal, Meredith Free as Chiffon, and Élyse Roy as Ronnette) to kick off the story. The beginning got off to a bit of a hiccupy start with slight technical issues (booming sound, microphones not turned up), a few small missed cues and the trio seeming a bit stiff in their acting and dancing but I sum that up to opening night jitters as it all disappeared as the performance continued on.
Every time I come across a performance of Little Shop, I always wonder how the production will take on the challenge of creating the rapidly growing carnivorous plant. I was very impressed by the way UC Follies took that on. Using a wheeled platform painted green and covering it with a green tent-like structure where stage hands covered in vines helped to open and close its gaping maw. Jaymie Sampa dressed in black and covered with flowers and vines sprung out from the plant’s mouth as its living embodiment.
Overall the performance was quite enjoyable. Josh and I both agreed on our technical observations of the show’s introduction and both felt that all was redeemed by the end. Many praises are awarded to James King whose insanely diabolical portrayal of Orin Scrivello stole the show and Sampa whose impressive pipes and sinister vibe blew everyone away.
I laughed and mouthed along to the words of “Suddenly Seymour” being reminded fondly of my high school years. This performance is also sure to take you back and it’s well worth a trip to the drive-in.
- Little Shop of Horrors is performed at the Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst Street).
- Performances are November 15 to the 17 at 8 pm.
- Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for students and seniors.
- Tickets can be purchased online at UofTtix.
Photo of (clockwise from left) Jaymie Sampa, Elyse Roy, Meredith Free, Zena Gopal and Mark Ferrari by Shak Haq.