‘Little Shop’ already a big hit

First, the good news.

“Little Shop of Horrors” by Kauai Community Players is a terrific production. Outstanding all around. We give it five stars, thumbs up and a standing ovation, too.

Now, the bad news if you want to go.

This week’s shows at the Puhi Theatrical Warehouse are already sold out. That’s Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And last weekend’s shows all sold out, so you get the idea tickets are in demand. But don’t fret just yet. Tickets remain for the Jan. 26, Jan. 27, Jan. 28 and Jan. 29 shows. You may want to hop on to kauaicommunityplayers.org and buy your tickets as soon as you read this.

Here’s why this musical comedy is a must-see and why it’s selling out: Music and acting are excellent. The staff is talented and terrific. Their passion for this performance is on display from the opening scene to the closing numbers. Each gives it their all.

A little background about the story is in order.

This sci-fi musical comedy, “Little Shop of Horrors,” was written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Seymour and Audrey find love while Seymour tries to keep Audrey II, a people-eating plant in the flower shop where he works, satisfied. That becomes harder to do as Audrey II keeps growing and demanding to be fed — “Feed Me!” — and unfortunately for many of the cast, this voracious plant has taken a liking to blood, specifically, human blood.

Rebecca Hanson directs a fine cast of Billy Quebido as Seymour; Jessika Montoya as Audrey; Arnold Meister as Mr. Mushnik, the shop owner; Kenna Shafter, Daphne Sanches and Jenne Cedusky are the chorus; Erik Hagan as dentist Orin Scrivello; Taj Gutierrez as the voice of Audrey II; and Chase Pitt, who plays a customer and works the third and fourth versions of Audrey II.

Some musicals have too many numbers. They drag in spots. The voices aren’t that good. Some lines make you cringe. You find yourself looking at your watch waiting for intermission.

None of that applies to KCP’s “Little Shop of Horrors.” The pace is perfect. It’s the right mix of dialogue and song. In a short time, you get to know these characters and you like them, flaws and all.

Arnold Meister, one of Kauai’s finest talents in theater, nearly steals the show as Mr. Mushnik and it’s treat to see him back on stage. He sings, he dances, he delivers his lines with energy and enthusiasm. He is a commanding presence when necessary and slips into the background to let others shine the next moment. You’ll find yourself rooting for Mr. Mushnik even if he is, for the most part, a crabby old man. The dance and song routine Meister and Quebido perform just might be the best number in a production of great songs.

Quebido and Montoya have star power and charisma and work their magic together. Montoya has an especially powerful voice and attractive innocence that draws in the audience, while Quebido not only holds his own with strong vocals, but at times takes over the stage and you feel his anguish, torn between seeking fame and fortunate with Audrey II, but literally sacrificing those he knows and even his soul.

The trio of Shafter, Sanches and Cedusky are the silky smooth chorus. They don’t overwhelm their colleagues with their songs, but these are no shrinking violets, either. They strut and stroll and smile and each time they come on stage, they light it up. These young women are perhaps the biggest surprise of “Little Shop of Horrors” because they keep the scenes flowing from one to the next with their understated beauty and charm.

Hagan, as the sadistic dentist, is both intimidating and hilarious, crazy and dangerous. You want to hate him but at times he makes you laugh. Not someone you want to know, really. A bad guy whether he’s wearing his leather jacket or his white dentist coat. He meets an end that seems a bit gruesome, but yet, fitting.

Chase Pitt doesn’t get a lot of stage time when you can actually see him, because he’s also the man behind the movements of Audrey II when she grows up. Little recognition for such a central role. It is his character who buys a $100 worth of roses and we see Mr. Mushnik smile with sheer joy usually reserved for the birth of a baby.

The voice of the Audrey II is Taj Gutierrez. One thing we know for sure: This guy can belt it out. You won’t see him, but you’ll definitely hear him. When Audrey II comes to life, you’ll be wowed. Gutierrez gives this man-eating plant a quick wit, a diabolical, evil presence and booming vocals to go with his physical size.

Kudos to director Hanson for guiding this production that stays on course from its sweet start to a murderous finale. It is a musical masterpiece.

Now, go order those tickets. Be quick, or you’ll miss out.

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