Book and Lyrics: Howard Ashman
Music: Alan Menken
Director: Tara Louis Wilkinson
Reviewer: Nicole Evans
A somewhat unexpected and unprecedented success, Little Shop of Horrors started life as a low-budget B-movie back in 1960. Subsequent stage adaptations, and the better-known movie remake of 1986, have ensured the cult status it quickly gained has remained a large part of popular culture and you’d struggle to find somebody who isn’t familiar with the Mean Green Mother From Outta Space.
Immediately capturing our attention, the stage is bold and bright with a suspended board, complete with traffic lights and road signs, there to remind us what show we have come to see. Currently warning us of the dangers of the future of wireless telephones and their potential disruption to theatres, a changing digital screen displaying the headlines of the Skid Row Herald throughout sits to one side – unfortunately obscuring the band for some – and through the mist you can just about see the frontage of what will soon be revealed as Mushnik’s Florist, soon-to-be home of the flesh eating protagonist, Audrey II.
As Mushnik’s faces bankruptcy in a rough suburb of New York, Seymour reveals an ‘exotic’ plant he has somehow cultivated in the stores back room, a fly trap of sorts he has affectionately named Audrey II. The newly discovered species quickly piques the interest of wealthy passers-by who begin to flock to the store and Mushnik’s is thriving once again. When Audrey II begins to wilt, Seymour discovers the alien flora survives on flesh and blood, and after running out of supplies of his own, decides he should be a little more creative in sourcing the plant’s next meal. Soon sucked in to a leafy mass of lies, murder and deceit, juxtaposed with the love, fame and fortune the intriguing species has brought, has Seymour, and in turn Audrey II, bitten off more than they can chew?
Stephanie Clift, who is no stranger to The Belgrade stage after starring in new musical Crush last year, plays the sexy but sweet Audrey with charming endearment, rocking her sleek 1950’s wiggle dresses and heels with style and sass, yet revealing her unconfident nature as the beaten puppet of her boyfriend, Orin – played by former X-Factor contestant, Rhydian. Rhydian himself proves his worth as more than just talent show fodder, not just as Orin, but by changing his personality and mannerisms in an instant when later switching between various agents looking to sign Seymour. Sasha Latoya, Vanessa Fisher and Cassie Clare, who are rarely off-stage throughout, impress with their Supreme-like performance as the three dancing girls, despite Latoya starting somewhat unconfidently, and they seamlessly link the various scenes together with their vocal and choreographed talents.
Sam Lupton steals the show with his portrayal of the shy and retiring Seymour, capturing the innocence of his inexperienced boy-like character, and the turmoil he faces when confronted by both his inner and outer monsters in perfect unison. His interaction with the deftly manoeuvred and elaborate giant puppet, Audrey II, breathes life into the green being and adds to the belief of the puppet as a character in its own right.
The chemistry between the whole cast, puppeteer and band included, is effortless and together their energy and enthusiasm keep up the fun and comedic vibe of the musical from curtain up to standing ovation.
This production really does go all the way to proving that Little Shop of Horrors is nowhere close to fading out of view of the public eye. Firmly clutching its bygone era roots, yet dragging them into the 21st century, it’s truly hard to fault.
Plain and simple – fun and quirky musical theatre at its best. Just remember, Don’t Feed the Plants!
Runs until 29 October 2016 | Image: Contributed