Theatre Review: Little Shop of Horrors

Schlock horror meets musical comedy when a downtrodden florist’s assistant discovers a man-eating plant who promises all his heart desires, so long as it’s fed.

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Presented by Luckiest Productions and Tinderbox Productions
Reviewed 22 April 2016

Schlock horror may be an acquired taste but Little Shop of Horrors has remained a popular and enduring musical comedy for the masses since it premiered off-Broadway in 1982.

Photo credit: Jeff Busby
Photo credit: Jeff Busby

Inspired by the 1960 black comedy film by Roger Corman and, in itself, inspiring a 1986 film that has become a cult favourite, Little Shop of Horrors was adapted as a musical by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. It’s the ridiculously fun story of Seymour Krelborn, a florist’s assistant on Skid Row, who discovers a strange and interesting new plant. He names it the Audrey 2, after the love of his life. Prominently displayed and advertised in the window of the florist shop, Audrey 2 attracts new customers and revitalises the business but when Seymour discovers the plant feeds on human blood, he’s forced to do things no sane person would do or risk losing everything he’s gained.

Photo credit: Jeff Busby
Photo credit: Jeff Busby

Director Dean Bryant takes this production to darker places than expected, but it works a treat with the sensational Brent Hill (playing Seymour) also voicing the plant. While much of Audrey 2’s voicing is done with Seymour’s back to the audience, it’s not always so, and seeing him conversing to himself in two different voices highlights the madness of the character. How much of the action is real or in Seymour’s mind is left up to you to decide. It’s a path not taken before in this light and fluffy show but it’s an edge that adds a lot.

Esther Hannaford as downtrodden girlfriend Audrey exceeds all expectations, honouring Ellen Greene’s performance from the 1986 movie – which set the bar for this character – yet making the role entirely her own. She belts out the tunes with a voice to die for, and never fails to deliver the comedy, both verbally and physically. She is a star in every way.

Most fondly remembered from the 80s film would have to be Steve Martin’s turn as demented dentist Orin Scrivello DDS. Now we have Scott Johnson adding more quirk and danger to a role that’s difficult to pull off against the tide of domestic violence outrage that’s growing in today’s society. Through the comedy and the songs, the character is an uncomfortable one to watch but Johnson walks that fine line successfully.

Photo credit: Jeff Busby
Photo credit: Jeff Busby

Shop owner Mr Mushnik is a secondary character successfully brought to the fore in the capable hands of Tyler Coppin but almost everyone is overshadowed by the powerhouse performances of Josie Lane, Chloe Zuel and Angelique Cassimatis as the Doo Wop girls Chiffon, Ronnette and Crystal who narrate through song. It’s also through them that Andrew Hallsworth’s masterful choreography really shines. His precision of movements embrace the schlock horror genre in ways I never expected dance to be able to achieve.

Other than the growing, man-eating plant itself, designed by puppet makers Erth, the most striking feature of the production is the set, skilfully designed in black and white initially and complemented by Tim Chappel’s equally duotoned costumes.

The catagious tunes, silly story, adorable characters, dark humour and an ending that may not be what you expect, combine in perfect harmony for an energetic and funny must-see on your entertainment calendar. Head over to somewhere that’s green at suppertime.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, 58 Grote Street, Adelaide
Season: 22 – 30 April 2016
Duration: 2 hours plus interval
Tickets: $71.90 – $89.90
Bookings: Book at BASS

 

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