Little Shop of Horrors is a cult horror-comedy musical, somewhat in the vein of Rocky Horror, about a new breed of fly trap with a taste for human blood. Seymour Krelborn (Michael Coombs) finds a rare and exotic plant that instantly revives business at Mushnik’s florists shop, but the plant, named Audrey II, soon reveals success comes at a bloody price. The Queen’s College production places the emphasis on the comedy rather than the horror – one of the more significant moments of pathos, Audrey’s reprise of ‘Somewhere That’s Green’, was greeted with laughter – but that’s no failing. The broad brush comic approach works well with the unbridled enthusiasm of the cast, even skating over some of the first night jitters.
The production values are not exactly high, with one set piece collapsing within the first few minutes, no doubt in part because this ‘garden’ play was unfortunately moved inside. Still, the production team must be commended for the creation of the Audrey II puppets. Moreover, what is available is put to good use – the live band are fantastic, adjusting well to the performers on stage, and a particularly creative moment shared between the guitarist (Richard Porteous) and Coombs stays in the memory.
The singing is for the most part excellent, although a few performers are caught in roles that stretch the edges of their range. Sarah Mansfield, as Audrey, struggles to sing in an American accent, reverting to classical enunciation when pressed for notes, but her sweet tone is perfectly suited to her character. David Wigley at the opposite end of the spectrum occasionally let Mushnik’s strong New York twang overtake the sense of his lines, but he proved stronger as time went on. His performance seems tuned to a slightly larger space than the lecture hall it inhabits, often dwarfing the others on stage.
However, nothing can overshadow the trio of Ronette, Chiffon and Crystal, the musical’s chorus played by Alice Evans, Heather Young and Susannah Cohen respectively. The three’s voices blend superbly and they exercise great control over the balance, anchoring the larger musical numbers and shining in their own – ‘Da Doo’ is a highlight. The best song of the show, however, is ‘Dentist’, where the trio play back up to Tim Lintern’s sadistic, psychopathic and scintillating Oren Scrivello. Lintern, eyes bulged, lips pouted, makes the role his own as much as Steve Martin did and if his acting leaves something to be desired it is easily forgiven. This production isn’t perfect, but proves an entertaining evening. Hopefully with a move out to the gardens the show will grow and thrive.
PHOTO / Little Shop of Horrors