MONMOUTH – Blood is flowing freely at Cumston Hall in Monmouth.

So are tears, but they’re all tears of laughter as an outstanding cast rips through the tongue-in-cheek terrors of “Little Shop of Horrors.”

This highly enjoyable production of the quirky musical comedy is presented by Monmouth Community Players. Director Michael T. French effectively leads his talented troupe in a lively, laughable homage to campy horror films and girl-group music of the 1960s.

Matt Buganza puts just the right mix of nice and nerdy on his portrayal of Seymour Krelborn. When he learns that blood from the prick of a rose thorn is the essential food craved by a new plant in the shop, Seymour is set on an inexorable course to fame and fortune. Unfortunately, the carnivorous cultivar’s gory appetite must be appeased.

The entire plot is driven by the plant’s demands for more and more human blood.

Katie St. Pierre, a sophomore at the University of Southern Maine, gives an excellent Judy Holiday-type of performance as Audrey, the regally blond and completely clueless object of Seymour’s affection and her boyfriend’s brutality.

Duane Glover’s characterization of Mr. Mushnik, owner of the Skid Row florist shop, also deserves praise.

The set design and construction is also very well done. Flanked by a realistic trash-strewn back alley against a brick wall, Mushnik’s Skid Row Florist Shop really comes to life as the unusual and interesting plant known as Audrey II grows to enormous proportions.

The script is packed with puns and one-liners. There is also a pleasing variety of clever and melodic musical numbers.

“Suddenly, Seymour” is well done by Buganza and St. Pierre, and St. Pierre also delivers an outstanding version of the loopy but lyrical “Somewhere That’s Green.”

“Feed Me (Git It)” and “Suppertime” are unforgettable numbers by the gigantic plant with a hip-hop attitude. The booming voice of Audrey II is supplied by Rick Messana, who is pastor of the North Livermore Baptist Church. Rebecca Caron is another unseen but critical cast member who does a fine job manipulating the puppet plant’s movements.

Some of the best music in “Little Shop of Horrors” comes from the trio called The Urchins. Emily Edmondon as Chiffon, Josie French as Crystal and Michelle Moreau as Ronnette give fine renditions of songs in the doo-wop and early Motown styles of the girl groups from which their names are taken.

The Urchins blend their voices in fine interpretations of “Skid Row,” “Da-Doo” and “Ya Never Know” with Seymour, and “The Meek Shall Inherit.”

An off-stage, five-piece rock band led by Mike Shaw provides good and balanced backup for the vocalists.

A real scene-stealer is Vincent Ratsavong in his leather-jacketed, leader-of-the-pack portrayal of Orin Scrivello, DDS. He is a commanding stage presence as the wildly sadistic dentist and abusive boyfriend of Audrey.

The dentist meets a well-deserved death by laughing gas when Seymour appears at his office with Audrey’s defense in mind. What follows is certainly one of musical comedy’s most bizarre twists on taking a final breath.

An appropriate disposal of the dentist’s body doesn’t mean Ratsavong is done on this stage. He is also seen in quick and delightful turns as Mrs. Luce, Mr. Bernstein and Skip Snip.

Andy Tolman also appears in multiple roles that move the story forward.

“Little Shop of Horrors” was a 1982 off-Broadway musical hit with music by Alan Menken and book and lyrics by Howard Ashman.

Monmouth Community Players

WHAT: “Little Shop of Horrors”

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 14-15; and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 16

WHERE: Cumston Hall in Monmouth

TICKETS: $14 for adults, $12 for students and seniors. Call 933-2229.


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