Little Shop of Horrors (Tour) – Musical Theatre Review

Cult classic Little Shop of Horrors wraps its tendrils around Aylesbury Waterside Theatre this week. Written by Howard Ashman, with music by Alan Menken, most are passingly familiar with the 1986 film, but perhaps less so with either the original 1960 B-movie film, or the musical stage version. The story follows nerdy young orphan Seymour, as he nurtures a strange new plant he discovers during a solar eclipse. It soon becomes clear however, this is no ordinary plant, as it begs for blood to sustain it… It’s as odd and campy as it sounds, and if that’s not your thing, you’re unlikely to enjoy this bubbly, but somewhat bleak musical.

And film purists be warned! There was one little girl I saw after the performance who was pretty devastated at the lack of a happily-ever-after ending as seen in the 1986 film…! Fluffy and frivolous this ain’t – we’re talking abusive relationships, murder and er… the potential extinction of the human race – but this production is still tonnes of fun despite the heavy subject matter.

Director Tara Louis Wilkinson has clearly enjoyed both the setting and characters, allowing the horror to seep quietly underneath the humour. Setting the production in the late Fifties, Wilkinson really rams home the B-Movie vibes here, and more than ever, Little Shop feels like the slightly odd cousin to Rocky Horror. What a double-feature that would be! David Shields design is wonderful, and really helps encapsulate this period whilst retaining an almost cartoon-y, colourful Sci-Fi weirdness. This is rounded off with some really fun touches; cheery radio broadcasts whilst the audience enter, a rolling newspaper advert that keeps us updated with the events of the show, and some beautifully detailed costume. The set does feel occasionally too crowded on the Waterside stage, with actors carefully creeping in and out of Mushnik’s flower shop, but it is so lovely to look at, we forgive it quite quickly.

Sam Lupton makes for an adorable and likeable Seymour, and Stephanie Clift plays his love interest Audrey with all the verve and vivaciousness you expect. The chemistry between the two is so infectious, you really do root for them, even through some of the slightly less well-conceived sections of the book. Orin, the sadistic dentist and Audrey’s boyfriend, was played by cover Josh Wilmott at this performance, and was delightfully creepy – this is the Joker with a drill! Our three choral street urchins, Crystal (Sasha Latoya), Chiffon (Vanessa Fisher) and Ronnette (Cassie Clare) are the epitome of a Motown girl group with their slick choreography and absolutely flawless vocals, as the guide us wonderfully through Seymour’s tragic story.

The puppetry of Audrey II (as the huge carnivorous plant comes to be known) was occasionally a little off, but he is wonderfully brought to life. It is an astonishingly great puppet! Every little shake of its leaves becomes utterly loaded as the sense of impending horror grows. It’s always amusing to me that Audrey II is so… well, likeable! Insatiable appetite and dreams of world domination aside, the plant is almost everything Seymour wishes he could be – cool, feisty and brash enough to state exactly what it wants!

This production is a wonderful slice of campy, nostalgic and challenging musical theatre fun, and it is a joy to see a regional tour that is so unapologetic and fully designed. One for the losers, the nerds, and those looking for something a little different. But remember, don’t feed the plants…!

Little Shop of Horrors
Aylesbury
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
13th – 17th September, 2016

Then touring on to:

Lichfield Garrick Theatre 20 September 2016 – 24 September 2016
Birmingham Alexandra 27 September 2016 – 1 October 2016
Cardiff New Theatre 3 October 2016 – 8 October 2016
Spa Bridlington 11 October 2016 – 15 October 2016
Cheltenham Everyman 17 October 2016 – 22 October 2016
Coventry Belgrade 26 October 2016 – 29 October 2016
Manchester Palace 31 October 2016 – 5 November 2016
Sheffield Lyceum 7 November 2016 – 12 November 2016
Glasgow Theatre Royal 14 November 2016 – 19 November 2016
Blackpool Grand Theatre 22 November 2016 – 26 November 2016

Credits

Cast

Seymour – Sam Lupton
Audrey – Stephanie Clift
Orin – Rhydian (played by Josh Wilmott at this performance)
Mushnik – Paul Kissaun
Crystal – Sasha Latoya
Chiffon/Dance Captain – Vanessa Fisher
Ronnette – Cassie Clare
Audrey II (voice) – Neil Nicholas
Audrey II (puppeteer) – Josh Wilmott
Male Ensemble – Phil Adèle
Female Ensemble – Stephanie McConville

Crew

Director – Tara Louis Wilkinson
Designer – David Shields
Choreographer – Matthew Cole
Lighting Designer – Charlie Morgan Jones
Sound Designer – Gareth Owen
Musical Director – Dustin Conrad

https://www.selladoor.com/productions/little-shop-of-horrors

© Carly Halse - Reviewed on Tuesday 13th September, 2016.

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