Book and Lyrics: Howard Ashman
Music: Alan Menken
Director: Tara Louis Wilkinson
Reviewer: Ruth Gerrard
The green carpet has been rolled out in Manchester and invites you to join them at Mushnik’s florist shop down on Skid Row where Mr Mushnik (Paul Kissaun) is struggling to make ends meet. With two employees to pay Seymour (Sam Lupton) and Audrey (Stephanie Clift) a serious decision needs to be made about the future of the business. Seymour and Audrey try to encourage Mushnik to modernise a little and display one of the plants Seymour has been cultivating in the basement to entice new customers to the shop. Nobody could have predicted what a success this one small idea could possibly have or the price they would pay in the end.
There are no weak links among this small cast. It only becomes obvious how few of them there are in the final number. Lupton as Seymour plays the bumbling, nervous young man with ease and darts around the stage like a firecracker. His strong pure vocals are consistently pleasing and uplifting. It’s hard not to route for the little guy. Clift’s Audrey is suitably ditzy yet vulnerable; beautiful but insecure. Her rendition of Suddenly Seymour is powerful and convincing as is her fear of her overpowering, nasty dentist boyfriend Orin (Rhydian Roberts). Roberts’ maniacal portrayal of the dentist is certainly very funny and is suitably absurd. His vocal ability is never in doubt but his comedic skills should be praised in this production. Sasha Latoya, Vanessa Fisher and Cassie Clare as the ragamuffins narrate the show wonderfully. A special mention for Josh Wilmott the puppeteer in charge of Audrey 2 who does a fantastic job of operating the menacing plant.
The eclectic score is expertly brought to life by a small but perfectly formed band under the expert instruction of Dustin Conrad. Largely hidden from view, it is impressive what a three strong band can achieve. The numbers move from a Yiddish folk number Mushnick and Sons into the Motown-inspired narrations of the ragamuffins through to ballads such as Somewhere That’s Green sung by Clift with ease. It’s a combination that shouldn’t work but it does.
It is easy to love Little Shop; fond memories of the film, and memorable score that is easy to sing along to and a sweet, mildly horrifying story that is a firm favourite among young and old alike. It is just that this production feels a little flat. This is a strong case that is not used to full potential. The direction from Wilkinson in parts is weak and the show continually feels like it is on the cusp of exploding and really getting going but does not quite reach its peak. Even with a small cast and the challenge of manoeuvring around the ever-growing Audrey 2; more could have been achieved on stage. The transition between scenes is not always as smooth as it could be and breaks the flow of the show at times.
Little Shop of Horrors is easy watching and very enjoyable. The spine-chilling dominance of Audrey 2 should never be underestimated and you are guaranteed strong performances and really good laugh at this classic show. Just remember; DO NOT FEED THE PLANTS!
Runs until 6 November, 2016 | Image: Matt Martin