Photo by Tyler WiseMaybe Little Shop of Horrors isn't your idea of an evening out, but c'mon: between the flesh-eating plant and the gutter-fabulous chorus girls, it's as dinner-and-a show as you can get. Done right, this is about the cutest boy-meets-girl-meets-monster-plant-from-hell musical since The Day of the Triffids, and this by-the-book ARK Players production is done just right. Directed by Mark Piatelli, LittleShop ably delivers all the laughs we've laughed before (if you've seen the 1986 film version, you'll feel right at home on ARK's Skid Row) with the sort of comfortably confident performances this old standard deserves.
So don't let the humble digs fool you—with something of an all-star cast (including the co-founders of Long Beach's excellent loud*R*mouth Theater Co.), costume design by real Hollywood hotshots, and even an actual band rocking out stage left, it's a production you'd expect to see on a swanky mainstage, not a storefront theater full of folding chairs. But then again, a play like Little Shop lives and dies on the production values—when your title character has to swallow someone whole, you don't want to keep the action offstage—and the ARK Players wisely don't skimp on the window dressing.
There isn't too much different from the now-canonical film version of the stage musical (barring the twist ending, which may freak casual moviegoers out): though Sean Gray is too chipper and baby-faced to pull off the semi-sadism dentist Orin Scrivello demands, Seymour (a goggle-eyed Marc Davila) and Audrey (Laura Marchant) hold their own against their big-screen counterparts. The plant herself (itself?) is scary and big and impressive in all the best ways, and everybody—from the angels in the chorus to the winos on the street—is obviously having a blast. It's a production that's as fun as it is—indeed, because it is—familiar, a tasty hunk of cheese (seasoned with a little blood) that goes down nice and easy.
Little Shop of Horrors at the ARK Theatre, 540 E. Broadway, Long Beach, (562) 983-1993. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 8 p.m. Through March 24. $10.