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'Horror' show; Susana Breese is a gem in this 'Little Shop'

Taking a trip to the Alt Theatre bear with me on this one -- is not unlike shopping at AMVETS.

You enter each venue with a sense of optimism but not necessarily a great deal of hope, knowing that somewhere amid the cluttered racks of secondhand stuff, the perfect find may be buried.

Sometimes the trip works out well -- you find that perfect ugly Christmas sweater for next week's party or a vintage shirt way cooler than the ones at Urban Outfitters. Sometimes it doesn't and you leave empty-handed. But the promise of a possible surprise always lures you back.

Thus it was with the Alt's underwhelming production of "Little Shop of Horrors," which aimed for the sort of pasted-together charm of previous Alt shows like "Evil Dead The Musical" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," but couldn't quite rise above its own amateurishness.

This show, directed by Bret Runyon, suffered from a number of maladies, foremost of which were several uninspired performances from key cast members. Microphone problems also plagued last Friday night's performance, tossing one more wrench into an already rickety show.

"Little Shop," now a classic in the musical theater canon, is one of the more delightfully ridiculous musicals ever to have crossed a Broadway stage. It focuses on young Seymour (Matthew Mooney), an amateur botanist working at a run-down flower shop in a run-down neighborhood, who nurtures an exotic, bloodthirsty plant until it grows out of control. He has his eye on the young Audrey (Susana Breese), a fellow employee currently locked into an abusive relationship with the sadistic dentist Orin (John Kreuzer).

Toss in a clever collectionof '50s-inspired songs and a pair of gorgeous ballads by the inimitable Alan Menken, and you've got a show that can stand up to quite a bit of abuse.

And, as with any Alt production, there are gems to be found. In this "Little Shop," one of them is Breese's rendition of "Somewhere That's Green," which she delivers with all the camp-infused feeling it deserves. Breese, who establishes the dumb blonde archetype and imbues it with genuine pathos and augments it with all sorts of endearing quirks, runs away with the show.

As Seymour, Mooney is affable and in good voice. But his bits with Andreana, whose performance as flower shop owner Mr. Mushnik is alternately overwrought and under-realized, notably the vaudevillian "Mushnik and Son," fail to hit home.

Even so, the show is worth catching for Breese's performance alone. It's a bit of glimmering charm buried in a production that's mostly secondhand.

e-mail: cdabkowski@buffnews.com

***

"Little Shop of Horrors"
   

2 stars (out of 4)

WHEN: Through April 16    

WHERE: Alt Theatre, 255 Great Arrow Ave.    

TICKETS: $20 to $25    

INFO: 464-7806 or www.alttheatre.com

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