Horror shows off
Two exciting musicals buoy Chico’s fall spirit
Little Shop of Horrors, Chico State
A well-executed script boosted by spirited musical performances and carried out by an amusing, edgy cast, highlight Chico State’s engaging adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors.
The lively production is based on the 1986 film, which itself was based on the off-Broadway hit and low-budget film that came before it. This updated version, which takes full advantage of the enormous university stage, gives plenty of opportunities for the student cast to have fun with their roles—and with the audience—even in those scenes that are requisitely creepy.
At Friday’s performance, Noah Snyder did a fine job as Seymour, a submissive nebbish who toils in anonymity at a Skid Row flower shop until he acquires a mysterious carnivorous plant that brings potential fame and fortune. Hannah Covington-Bernard, was strong as Seymour’s romantic interest, the miniskirted co-worker Audrey; and Maxwell Pickens nicely embraced the role of flower-shop owner Mushnik. Ryan Mutti deserves praise for giving the giant plant a hepcat persona.
The rest of the cast shined as well, from prostitutes Cinnamon, Pepper and Paprika, to the opportunistic agents who saw the plant as their cash cow. And throughout, the versatile band of local all-stars conducted by North State Symphony maestro Kyle Wiley Pickett was outstanding.
Each component in director Joel P. Rogers’ grand production was boosted by the cast’s gusto and enthusiasm. The farcical musical also calls for the stage sets, lighting, costumes and choreography to be bright, and each component hit the mark.
In addition to the dynamic singing and dancing, the play delivered all of the obligatory plot developments, which revolve around the mysterious plant’s increasing growth and insatiable hunger. We watched Mushnik’s humble persona challenged by the newfound success of his shop, and we followed Seymour and Audrey’s potential relationship blossom despite his I-am-not-worthy personality and her battered relationship with a sadistic, laughing-gas-addicted dentist, aptly played by Ben Day.
But the deepest subplot, which in the end makes Little Shop of Horrors a lot more than a mindless, rock- and doo-wop-filled musical, is Seymour’s struggles with his own morals. He sees the opportunity for love and financial success within reach, but at what cost?
Rocky Horror Show, Chico Cabaret
For the first time in 20 years, I lied about my virginity last weekend. I lied to the man in black fishnet stockings brandishing a tube of lipstick and zeroing in on my sweaty forehead. I lied because I was ashamed, and I was afraid that the man and his half-naked friends would mark me and mock me and make me dance. I justified the lie in my mind thinking, “Well, I’ve seen the movie before …”
But, after attending the opening weekend of Chico Cabaret’s eighth presentation of the Rocky Horror Show, I realized every freaky theater friend I ever had was right: A dozen video viewings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show can’t nearly compare to one live performance.
The Cabaret does a fantastic job of staging a notoriously large and difficult production, setting the action on a multilevel mockup of Frank-N-Furter’s Transylvanian castle centered around a large screen. Prerecorded and found film footage and an offstage, four-piece band complement the on-stage action, which at times features more than a dozen performers.
The leads all handle their parts well, with Matt Hammons managing the difficult feat of making the iconic Frank-N-Furter role his own. Zack Valdez and Ashley Garlick shine as hapless newlyweds Brad and Janet, capturing their respective essences (gawky machismo and subdued sexuality) both in physicality and mannerisms.
But it’s the smaller roles that really make the show. Frank’s Phantoms—a sextet of scantily clad sirens—are the show’s heart and soul, and it seems like they don’t stop singing and dancing for even a second the entire first act. The offstage phantoms, who yell out the callbacks and coach the audience when to use props, arguably have the toughest job of all.
In the end I realized I should’ve just copped to my virginity. Even those with an aversion to audience participation or being put on the spot have nothing to fear, save some friendly squirt-gun fire and a little light petting.