Sunday, July 22, 2007

SPARC's "Little Shop" Ignites Firehouse

With Little Shop of Horrors, SPARC is trying something different—a small, Off Broadway style musical performed by actors identical in age and experience to those actors used by many of Richmond’s other producing theatres. Watching this fun production of Little Shop is like watching Austin’s Bridge, Bat Boy or any of the other terrific Off Broadway musicals that the Firehouse has produced. It’s like watching Little Shop at the Mill, or Olympus on My Mind at Barksdale.

Let me amend that, slightly. The only difference I can see is that those other shows used a live band, or at least a live acoustic piano, and SPARC hasn't chosen to go that route. But Blanton Bradley is a great music director, and his “accompaniment track” adds real energy to this production. The accompaniment sounds very much like the original cast album.

SPARC’s current production of Little Shop is very different from Cats, Pippin, Grease or Disney’s High School Musical. I’m not sure why I wasn’t expecting that difference, but I wasn’t.

So welcome, Jenny and Larry, to the relatively small circle of Richmond theatrical producers. A lot is being written and said about Henley Street being the new theatre on the block. But with Little Shop, SPARC is clearly staking its claim to being a new, adult-audience producer, which is somewhat different from being the educational theatre producer that SPARC has been in the past.

Welcome, welcome, welcome!
If you haven’t seen Little Shop, by all means race down to the Firehouse to catch this production. The cast is great, and SPARC’s powerhouse team of Width, Bradley and Turner are at the top of their form.

And Jason Marks! Good grief, Jason. You get better and better with every show. Jason is simply one of the best Mr. Mushnik’s I’ve ever seen, and I’m old enough to have seen the original Off Broadway production—twice.

And then there’s Audrey. Lovely Audrey. Hayley Roberts is dynamite in this hilarious and heart-breaking role. She has a wonderful singing voice and great acting chops. You never know whether to laugh or cry. I loved her.

David Watson as Seymour and Elliott Lau as Orin (he of the rusting drill) are two young men to watch. Hayley, David and Elliott are all students at VCU, but they’re apparently not theatre majors. Who would know? All three have vocal and acting talent to spare, and I hope they continue to swim in the Richmond talent pool for years to come.

Word has it that Hayley's even married to a dentist in real life.

The three doo wop girls have big voices—I particularly liked the two with Meadowbrook H S connections. And T. J. Ellis as the Voice of Audrey II is ready for his recording contract. He has a wonderful and expressive voice—look out American Idol. Eric Stallings as the Audrey II manipulator also does a great job.

Mercedes Schaum makes the most of Firehouse’s tiny stage; Kym Mincks creates a real environment with her evocative costumes; Joe Doran continues to be a master of lights—and about the nicest guy you’ll ever meet.

So, for a little summertime fun, why not dive in to the Firehouse for Little Shop from SPARC.
Congratulations one and all. I hope you have the most successful run ever.

--Bruce Miller

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

SPARC did a fantastic job with this production. I also have seen the original production of "Little Shop," "back in the day," and this one stood right up there! I loved Hayley and Elliot, as well as Jason Marks. He is just phenomenal! Kudos to SPARC on a job well done!