Little Shop of Horrors

The great musical “Little Shop of Horrors,” what with its dark comedy and campy-creepy ending (very different from the movie version), is not performed very often in these parts. So the Off Broadway Theatre in Salt Lake City is to be applauded for bringing the tuneful treat to the stage in the first place.

Seymour Krelborn (Eric Jensen) is a skid-row loser who works for Mr. Mushnick (Zac Zumbrunnen) in his greasy flower shop. His co-worker, the lovely Audrey (Alexis Owen), suffers from low self-esteem (a common problem on Skid Row) and dates sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello (Mike Brown). Everything looks bad for everyone.

Then Seymour finds a weird plant he’s never seen before, which he dubs “Audrey II.” By accident, he discovers that what makes the flytrap-style plant thrive is blood. The plant grows, customers flock to see it, they buy flowers, everybody’s happy.

That’s when Audrey II (voiced by Logan Black), now almost filling the room, starts talking and demanding real food — flesh, to be specific. Fortunately, that awful Orin Scrivello sorta deserves the fate of being killed and fed to a plant, and before you know it, Audrey II is REALLY thriving, Seymour’s really famous, and the question becomes: How far will he go?

It’s all narrated and facilitated by a doo-wopping Greek chorus (Rochelle Barton, Sophia Valdez, Amber Woody), befitting the show’s loosely adapted Greek tragedy plot structure.

If you haven’t seen the show, don’t let the over-analysis of its deeper points scare you; it’s meant to be a comedy, and it’s a funny one. It was written by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who later did the songs for Disney’s “Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and part of “Aladdin,” and the same quality of humor exists in this earlier work.

Eric Jensen, who is known for being one of the best comic actors in these parts, full of verbal and physical agility and energy, seems oddly subdued as Seymour. It’s almost as if having a script (he’s a member of OBT’s Quick Wits improv group) makes him feel reined it. On opening night, he often seemed just about to really cut loose — and then he’d pull himself back again. Hopefully he’s worked into the role and made it his own — while still staying true to the script, of course — by now.

Alexis Owen’s Audrey is wonderful, with just the right blend of platinum-blond ditziness and sympathetic humanity. The back-up trio aids and abets the goings-on very nicely, too, though their silk-scarf clowning detracts from Audrey’s poignantly funny “Somewhere That’s Green” song.

Like I said, any chance to see this fun, interesting play is welcome. OBT has the talent on the stage; it’s just a matter of making it all work for the show — which I have every confidence they’ll have done by the time you get to seeing it.

Don't see the movie version of this musical. It has a terrible, watered-down ending. Give me your word, OK? OK?! All right, then.