Ashley Wright, Tenaj Williams, Synthia Yusuf

Opening The Arts Club’s 2023/24 season and a landmark 60th year in business is horror/rock musical Little Shop of Horrors, based on Howard Ashman’s book and Alan Menken’s music. The musical was also made into a 1986 film of the same name, directed by Frank Oz.

Tenaj Williams
[Tenaj Williams]

This production features Bahamas-born, Calgary-based actor Tenaj Williams as Seymour. He’s starred in TV shows such as CTV’s JANN and the American crime drama Big Sky; theatre credits include Theatre Aquarius’s Sweat as well as Citadel Theatre and Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s adaptation of The Color Purple.

The Stanley Alliance Industrial Stage turns into a Skid Row 1960’s neighbourhood back alley with Mushnik’s Floral Shop as its focus. The store is run by Mr. Mushnik (Ashley Wright), with his two employees, Audrey (Synthia Yusuf) and Seymour (a fabulous portrayal by Williams).

Rochelle Laplante, Ivy Charles, Ali Watson, Tenaj Williams, Synthia Yusuf
[Rochelle Laplante, Ivy Charles, Ali Watson, Tenaj Williams, Synthia Yusuf]

Business is on the decline and Mr. Mushnik is about to close down the shop when Seymour, an orphan taken in by Mushnik, brings out his mystery plant (purchased on the evening of a total eclipse of the sun) that he’s been cultivating in the back room and sets it in the shop’s front window on display.

Right away, passers by begin to take notice and come into the shop to purchase flowers, intrigued by this wonder of nature. Seymour names the plant Audrey II, as he’s got a sweet spot for Audrey.

Tenaj Williams
[Tenaj Williams]

When Seymour is alone with the plant, it comes to life and begs him to feed it, and the only way it will be satiated is with fresh human blood! As Audrey II begins to grow, so does the story, presented in two acts, turning Seymour into an unlikely hero and star.

The plant’s incessant need for fresh blood presents an obvious dilemma for Seymour as TV agents, LIFE Magazine and assorted industry leads come knocking on the floral shop’s door, promising fame and fortune.

Beyata Hackborn’s modular sets combine nicely with Rebecca Picherack’s colourful and well-designed lighting techniques.

Tenaj Williams, Ali Watson, Rochelle Laplante, Ivy Charles
[Tenaj Williams, Ali Watson, Rochelle Laplante, Ivy Charles]

Audrey II’s various iterations were also conceived by Ms. Hackborn, and prototypes were built, with fabric, textures, lighting and scale all taken into account when it came time to building the final models to suit the stage atmosphere.

Madeleine Sudddaby brings Audrey II to live with her deliciously menacing voice, together with motions brilliantly choreographed by show puppeteer Braydon Dowler-Coltman.

Synthia Yusuf
[Synthia Yusuf]

Synthia Yusuf’s voice is stunning, particularly during her shining moment, Somewhere That’s Green. Her tacky, low-rent costumes (courtesy of Carmen Alatorre) align perfectly with her background, while timid Seymour’s outfits are more toned down in comparison.

Rochelle Laplante, Ali Watson, Ivy Charles
[Rochelle Laplante, Ali Watson, Ivy Charles]

The trio of Motown/doo-wop singers (Chiffon, Crystal and Ronette, played by Rochelle Laplante, Ali Watson and Ivy Charles respectively) add vocal texture to the numbers as well as occasion narrators to the story. Their costumes, from street to sparkle (as Seymour’s star begins to rise), are also well-coordinated by Alatorre.

John Ullyatt, Tenaj Williams
[John Ullyatt, Tenaj Williams]

We also enjoyed John Ullyatt’s performance of sadistic boyfriend/dentist Orin Track.

The Arts Club’s co-production with the Citadel Theatre, Edmonton, includes an entirely Western Canadian cast hailing from Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. Little Shop of Horrors deserved the standing ovation that it received on opening night and will leave you in good spirits as we morph into autumn!

Directed by Ashlie Corcoran, Little Shop of Horrors continues at the Stanley Alliance Industrial Stage through October 8.

Photos by Moonrider Productions for the Arts Club Theatre Company.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.