Having a green thumb isn't always all it's cracked up to be, especially when it's used to the benefit of a man-eating Venus' flytrap. This is the premise behind the outrageous comedy-musical "Little Shop of Horrors," enjoying a two-weekend run at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax.
Ryan Fredrickson plays flower shop clerk Seymour Krelborn, who uses his uncanny ability to raise a different kind of plant that, in return, helps him realize his dreams. Seymour can have whatever he wants, and there's only one catch: To keep going, his plant requires regular feedings . . . of human blood.
Seymour obliges, hoping in the process to win the love of his co-worker, Audrey (Stacy Fullerton), even though she is dating a psychotic dentist (Peter Andre).
Fredrickson is able to convey Seymour's strong feelings for Audrey in a manner that makes the audience sympathetic with the human sacrifices he must make to satisfy the evil plant, named Audrey II. For her part, Fullerton dazzles with a flawless accent and a singing voice that hits all the high notes with clear precision.
Balancing fuzzy sound and overly loud microphones are some interesting technical devices, including a few short movies shown during musical numbers to bring out the humor of the lyrics. This approach works best in "Da-Doo," in which Seymour describes how he came across Audrey II, but it detracts slightly from Audrey's sonorous solo "Somewhere That's Green."
Binh Ngo, his onstage appearance limited to a brief curtain call at the end, nevertheless leaves a lasting impression as the voice of Audrey II. Pulling the strings, puppeteer Jim Gertzog keeps the plant realistically involved in each scene.
The only thing more impressive than how this duo brings Audrey II to life is the plant itself. Designed and constructed by Jessie Duncanson, Amy Munsell, Catalina Lavalle and Gertzog, Audrey II is one amazing prop and, no doubt about it, the star of this show. It will make you think twice before you invest in new household greenery.
West Potomac High School
A psychotic dentist, a bloodthirsty plant and corrupted innocence are the audience-riveting elements of "Little Shop of Horrors." The 1950s Skid Row musical, now playing at W.T. Woodson High in Fairfax, tells the story of well-meaning florist Seymour Krelborn (Ryan Fredrickson) and the bizarre Venus' flytrap he cultivates.
The plant, which appears suddenly during a solar eclipse, has an insatiable lust for human blood and constantly insists that Seymour feed it something larger, eventually demanding entire human beings at mealtime.
Woodson's production shines in a number of ways. The chorus of urchins (Jo Vretos, Lauren Calhoun, Catalina Lavalle, Jill Rizutto, Leah Marie Zeller and Kara Jackson) is especially entertaining, piping up with a cynical song whenever one is needed.
Stacy Fullerton plays Audrey, Seymour's semi-daft girlfriend. Fullerton is a dynamic asset, consistent in her characterization, with a mature singing voice. As Seymour, Ryan Fredrickson also creates a complex, interesting character: simultaneously timid and friendly, and murderously greedy.
One of the biggest surprises of the show is Audrey II, the blood-craving plant. Engineered primarily by Jim Gertzog and Amy Munsell, Audrey II is exceptional -- voiced colorfully by Binh Ngo and fluidly operated, though the mouth sometimes did not match up exactly with Ngo's lines.
On the technical side, the lighting enhances the action and the sound is generally fine, albeit with some microphone static. And the five-piece orchestra, a talented lot who play without a conductor, is too quiet at times.
Even so, "Little Shop" is a fun place to hang out. Just don't feed the plants!
Thomas Jefferson High School
"Little Shop of Horrors" continues at W.T. Woodson tonight through Saturday. See Curtain Calls listing for details.