Little Shop of Horrors is a bizarre and deliciously twisted gem of a show. This is a bleak, blood-drenched story disguised in a darkly comedic and irreverent musical. This was a vocally demanding musical, but every actor stepped up to the challenge. Despite a few minor sound issues (put it down to first night glitches), this was a pure treat for the ears. These are some fast, patter style songs that do not leave room for mistakes. Luckily, this cast is more than capable. The talent of this cast really shone through, with everyone getting at least one moment to showcase their skill. I was completely captivated by every performance and blown away by their abilities, so hats off to them all.
Megan Cooper’s casting and direction was spectacular and I particularly appreciated the constant attention to detail in the background. Harry Allderidge took Seymour to new heights, drawing you into his lovable nature and performing those impressive vocal chops. The Monday night Osborne’s queue could have finally moved and I’m not sure anyone would’ve noticed. The audience was so enraptured in the performance and I think the sold out theatre really paid testament to the capabilities of this cast. His emotional skill was really on display, making you empathise and grapple with his moral and ethical dilemmas.
The chemistry between him and Isabel Askew’s Audrey was tenderly beautiful and gorgeous, with their vocals blending wonderfully. Askew brought a fragile sensibility and charming vulnerability to her deeply sympathetic role. ‘Suddenly Seymour’ was the perfect slice of hope and joy, allowing Askew’s voice to flourish in power and confidence alongside Audrey’s character. That was a knockout of a duet between these two flourishing actors and they’re definitely names to keep an eye on.
Any review of this production would be remiss for excluding the superstar that is Olivia Jones. As Audrey II, she was simply a scene stealer. This was her show and she took every moment she could. The nuance and levels she brought to this carnivorous plant was stellar. Her acting was excellent, but my god; she can sing. Her casting inverts the stereotypical assumptions of this role. Though she can hit those powerful bass tones, I loved the choice to make her this siren-like figure of temptation and damnation through the use of her higher register. Though perhaps her substitution for the puppet could have happened later to further the dramatic impact, having more time with her immense stage presence was joyous. This production took a risk making their plant human, but it more than paid off.
Vivienne Shaw’s Ronnette, Rhyen Hunt’s Crystal and Jessica Czapla’s Chiffon acted as our Doo-Woop Greek chorus, an all-seeing trio that were often harbingers of doom. They accompanied every disastrous moment, with such vocally stunning voices. Every time they popped up, you knew you were about to be blown away. Ben Osland’s Dentist was the epitome of that dark comedy that characterises the musical, with ridiculous mannerisms and that Joker-esque laugh. In his solo, that sustained note was stellar and throughout, he was just pure unhinged chaos. He truly was the villain you love to hate, despicable and uncaring. Miriam Templeman’s commitment and physical comedy as Mushnik was so much fun to watch. Her and Emily Wilson as the infamous Wino added notes of light-hearted comedy amidst the chaos.
James Stevenson’s lighting design was spectacular at setting the atmosphere and enhancing the action onstage. It provided a vivid immersion into this decayed world, full of melodramatic and technicolour splashes. I would reiterate the flash warning again a little more emphatically though. Anna Woolaghan and Amy Shelmerdine’s choreography was effective and visually interesting. I loved how the feedings became these dance battles that required creative blockings and clever stagings. They complimented the soundscape wonderfully, with the strobe lighting and noises effectively conveying these horrific moments. Lauren Brewer’s costuming was also spot-on. I particularly have to talk about Audrey II’s outfit and how it worked with the lighting to draw focus. The attention to detail was present yet again, with the red insides of the sleeves mimicking a fly-trap.
Little Shop of Horrors is a show one leaves humming the tunes and remembering the camp horror of that ‘B-movie tinted world’ they’ve just experienced. Just remember, whatever you do, don’t feed the plants.
Image credit: Tone Deaf Theatre Company