Review: Little Shop of Horrors, by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, Colchester Mercury, until June 13
- Credit: Richard Davenport
Like Grease, Little Shop of Horrors is one of the great Sixties musicals not written in the Sixties. Both musicals cleverly recapture the sound, look and the atmosphere of a bygone era.
Little Shop of Horrors is inspired by the 1960 Roger Corman film of the same title which tells the story of a hapless shop assistant in a Skid Row florists who enters into a Faustian pact with a flesh-eating alien plant to win fame, fortune and the girl of his dreams.
Of course, the unfortunate Seymour finds that he is lured into a world where he is not only forced to betray his ethics and values but is actually compelled to commit murder.
The story was adapted for the stage by Ashman and Menken in the early ‘80s and it became a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
For such a dark story, the musical – particularly Gareth Machin’s insightful and imaginative production at The Colchester Mercury – is told with a surprisingly light touch. There is plenty of humour in the characters which is frequently delievered through Howard Ashman’s witty lyrics.
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Ben Stott and Frances McNamee both deliver exceptionally strong performances as Seymour and Audrey, shy, would-be-lovers and employees at Mushnik’s Florists.
They are supported by a galaxy of exotic fellow citizens of Skid Row which include a group of girl group street urchins, who function as a Greek Chorus, observing and commenting on the action, a lady of the night, a street-drinker and a psychotic dentist who also just happens to Audrey’s abusive boyfriend.
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Audrey II, the larger-than-life plant, with an unhealthy taste for blood is well-realised and it is not hard to accept this as a real jive-talking, alien pot plant with a quest for world domination.
The show rockets along and the staging is terrific – working on different levels and with a corrugated iron fence which separates the flower shop from the street.
The one draw back in this show was that the sound-mix for the girl group wasn’t as clear as it was for the solo performers and, at times, it was difficult to hear clearly what they were singing.
Elsewhere, the performances and production values were colourful and punchy, taking you back to an age where people dreamed of a simple life “somewhere that’s green” but only as long as they remembered: “don’t feed the plants!”
A hugely enjoyable production of a contemporary classic.