Imagine a life of filth, homelessness, and nothing but dead ends: this is the life on Skid Row, “where your life’s a joke.” The thick fog of Skid Row engulfs audience members as they enter Saddleback’s Studio Theater, which has been transformed for “Little Shop of Horrors.”
The musicial tells the story of a nerdy slob Seymour, played by AJ Sclafani, who discovers a “strange and interesting plant” during a total eclipse. Seymour is disturbed to find out the plant, named Audrey II after the beautiful and beat up Audrey who works with Seymour but is dating a ruffian dentist, eats only blood. Although Seymour has moral and ethical dilemmas about killing to feed the plant, it promises to give Seymour anything he desires, which includes finally becoming a son to plant shop owner Mr. Mushnik, and television and radio contracts.
“We had close to 70 people audition for the show for a cast of essentially nine,” said Director Steve Anthony. “It was hard and easy to cast because we had a lot of talented people.”
The story is partially narrated by three Urchins, played by Kim Moreau, Chelsea Feller, and Angela Rodriguez. The girls produce tight harmonies and do a wonderful job of including the audience in Skid Row. Drew Carmona created some of the knock-out roles of the show, including Orin, the sadistic dentist who beats up Audrey, and several agents and producers aiming to sign Seymour. His multiple characters stole the show. Funny Mr. Mushnik was played by Nick Charles and he dances a beautiful tango with Sclafani. The romantic duo Sclafani and Linsey Martensen, who plays the role of Audrey, do a great job conveying the hopelessness and wishful ideologies that accompany a Skid Row home address.
Master manipulator Anthony Tuason is the man behind the plant, animating Audrey II, while Nathan Hodak is the offstage voice of terror. Both men together effectively created the phenomenon of the mysterious plant and were very funny.”This is really high quality performing,” said Deni Ferguson, Dana Point community member. “You can go to shows in LA or at Orange County, but it doesn’t get any better than this.”
Because of space limitations in the Studio Theater, the audience was separated into 2 sections on opposite sides of the room with the set in the middle, which created a sort of “Theater in the Rounds.”
“I worked with Kent McFann on the set,” Anthony said. “We both tossed ideas around but I essentially knew I wanted the set something like this. It was hard on the actors because I had to constantly remind them to look at the audience, which is on both sides of them.”
Though at times you only see the back ends of actors, this type of staging allows the audience to become almost a part of the set and show, which was illustrated by the cast singing directly to the audience.
“It’s fun to be so up close and personal,” Ferguson said. “It definitely adds to the experience.”
“Little Shop” runs Oct. 5-14 and tickets are almost completely sold out at $12 general, and $11 for students and seniors.