Theatre review: Little Shop of Horrors at the Long Beach Landmark Theatre

Courtney+Kendall%2C+Yunga+Webb%2C+and+Teanna+Vick+serenade+Matt+DeNoto+during+his+moments+of+indecision.
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Theatre review: Little Shop of Horrors at the Long Beach Landmark Theatre

Courtney Kendall, Yunga Webb, and Teanna Vick serenade Matt DeNoto during his moments of indecision.

Courtney Kendall, Yunga Webb, and Teanna Vick serenade Matt DeNoto during his moments of indecision.

Photo courtesy Long Beach Landmark Theatre

Courtney Kendall, Yunga Webb, and Teanna Vick serenade Matt DeNoto during his moments of indecision.

Photo courtesy Long Beach Landmark Theatre

Photo courtesy Long Beach Landmark Theatre

Courtney Kendall, Yunga Webb, and Teanna Vick serenade Matt DeNoto during his moments of indecision.

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No one who has ever reviewed Little Shop of Horrors has ever admitted the truth. Not once. It’s rather shocking. The truth ought to be revealed. It really doesn’t matter how strong the leads are at all. It doesn’t matter how marvelous the set is decorated, how immaculately tasteful the costumes are—none of it. Mark these words: the entire fate of a production of this classic completely rests in the hands of the following characters: Crystal, Ronette, and Chiffon.

You see, being a Greek chorus who drives the action of just about every scene is rewarding, but an extremely arduous task. Fortunately for audiences at the Long Beach Landmark Theatre, Teanna Vick, Yunga Webb, and Courtney Kendall are not only up to the challenge, but they deliver like Domino’s. Their vocals are powerful and the attitude to back it up is 100-percent authentic.

And it’s not to say that any other aspect of this new (and recently extended) show is lacking in any capacity. In fact, it’s quite difficult to point out any weak spot of this production. Megan O’Toole and Curtis Heard direct Little Shop with unheard of precision. No detail is left untended.

With the Greek chorus and production aspects completely fulfilled, the narrative itself can take flight. Seymour Krelborn (Matt DeNoto) is a longtime employee of a struggling Skid Row flower shop run by the demanding Mushnik (Michelle Chaho). When a total eclipse of the sun brings a peculiar plant into his possession, Seymour names it Audrey II after his co-worker (Amanda Webb), whom he is smitten with.

The peculiar plant brings much success to the shop to Mushnik’s delight and Seymour’s popularity, but the plant (George Carson with puppetry by Sean Balin) reveals its true colors, expressing its necessity for human flesh and blood. Conflicted by his desire to abandon mediocrity and attract Audrey, Seymour is faced with several difficult decisions that could eventually impact the entire world.

The real MVP of Little Shop is Michelle Chaho, who embodies the ambition, ruthlessness, and greed of Seymour’s boss, Mushnik, effortlessly. Chaho steals scene after scene without delving too far into being overly camp. DeNoto also plays the hopeless hero with relatable ease and Jay Dysart has no trouble depicting the villain everyone loves to hate. And even the ensemble of Lisa Bode Heard, Carlos Carlos, and Emily Morgan manages to shine without star billing.

Voice acting, however, is a tricky business. Without seeing the actor at face value, there is a heaping responsibility for the portrayer to get every syllable and every cadence and tone—speaking and singing—completely perfect. Anyone would be remiss to not recognize George Carson as a force after his performance as the vile space plant Audrey II.

For such a well-rounded effort, Little Shop is bound to impress audiences through and through. The fact that it has been extended an additional weekend speaks volumes. Above all, kudos must be paid to the team behind the Long Beach Landmark Theatre: they consistently present strong material worthy of a much larger space. That said, the intimate setting paired with the world class performances is a marvel that should not be changed.

Little Shop of Horrors runs until November 24 at the Long Beach Landmark Theatre at First Congregational Church of Long Beach, 241 Cedar Ave. Tickets are on sale at cost between $15 to $50. Online ticketing is available at lblandmark.org. The theater’s box office can be reached at (562) 366-0085.