In spite of the drought in Texas, this summer the Zilker hillside is brimming with lush vegetation. But watch out, because although they might be puppets, these plants are far from cute and cuddly.
For their 55th annual summer musical production, Zilker Theatre Productions brings us "Little Shop of Horrors," playing now through August 17th at the Beverly S. Sheffield Zilker Hillside Theater. With a massive set and some delightfully sparkly costumes, director M. Scott Tatum is pulling out all the stops for this darkly comic tale about the cost of seeking fame and fortune at the expense of one’s morals.
If you haven’t seen the 1986 film version, the basic premise is that Seymore, a lowly shop boy at a Skid Row florist (Andrew Cannata), stumbles upon a strange and interesting plant (that appears to be a large a variation of a Venus flytrap). In order to help save the waning business, Seymore encourages the shop owner Mr. Mushnick (Leslie Hethcox) to put the plant in the window. Seymore soon discovers, however, that the plant (which he calls Audrey II) lives off human blood. As Audrey II continues to grow and garner public attention, Seymore makes more and more concessions to the plant’s voracious appetite.
Andrew Cannata is wonderful as the awkward and lovesick Seymore, and Leslie Hethcox provides a silly and delightfully dynamic counterpoint in his portrayal of the stingy shopkeeper. And the pair performs a particularly charming dance number when Mushnick adopts the budding botanist.
Taylor Bryant is sweet and naïve as the hapless heroine Audrey, and Roderick Sanford’s voice of Audrey II is absolutely outstanding.
Jason Amato’s lighting does a lovely job of creating moods for each scene, and although some of Carl Booker’s costumes are rather uninspiring (a number of Audrey’s dresses are unflattering), the outfits for the chorus girls are decidedly spectacular.
Though initially impressive, Aaron Stahlecker’s massive set design contains some clunky flourishes that slow down scene transitions – particularly attaching the sadistic dentist’s (Tyler Jones) motorcycle to a large set piece.
The show is fun and relatively family-friendly (given that the premise is a man-eating plant), and Saturday nights they are offering a pre-show meet and greet with the plant puppets and puppeteers.
Regardless of the night, however, you’ll want to get there early to claim a good spot. This free show attracts large crowds, and picnics and blankets begin to appear as much as two hours prior to the 8:30 start time.
"Little Shop of Horrors" continues 8:30 pm Thursdays-Sundays through Aug. 17 at the Sheffield Theater in Zilker Park. The show is free. www.zilker.org.