Author Matthew W Harrill

Little Shop of Horrors

Sodbury Vale Musical Comedy Club – 10-12 November 2022

Composer – Alan Menken
Lyricist – Howard Ashman
Directors – Mark and Rachel Sellick
Musical Director – James Finbow

Company:

Seymour – Nick Gardner
Audrey – Marta Nuevo Goode
Mr. Mushnik – Richard Edwards
Orin Scrivello D.D.S – Ben Lea
Chiffon – Evie Baker
Crystal – Ashton Prior
Ronnette – Vicki Lowman
Audrey II (voice) – Oliver Lea
Mr. Bernstein/Mrs. Luca/Skip Snip – Cameron Hall
Patrick Martin – Adam Shea
Urchin Girls – Ella Parkinson, Lara Hanney, Sammie Ball
Wino #1/Radio DJ – Laura Adams
Winos – Dave Morgan, Pauly Milton
Customer #1 – Maria Nuevo
Parent, Customer 2 – Ella Manley
Dentist’s Patients – Jacqui Farthing, Tiger Strachan-Wills

Ensemble:

Adam Shea, Cameron Hall, Dan Hiscox, Dave Morgan, Ella Manley, Emily Minkov, Georgia Neal, Hannah Peacock, Jacqui Farthing, Jess Hughes, Laura Adams, Lin Bowden, Pauly Milton, Tiger Strachan-Wills

Puppeteers:

Jess Hughes, Laura Adams, Hannah Peacock, Evie Hodges, Max Cooper, Rachel Sellick

Off-Stage Singers:

Alison Sleath, Amy Neal, Gemma Davis, Hannah Peacock, Lee Sleath, Maria Nuevo  

Overview

Seymour, an orphan and a nerd, is taken in and given a job by Mr. Mushnik, the owner of a run down florists in Skid Row, a seedy part of town. Seymour spends his time doing menial tasks and dreaming of the shop assistant, Audrey. After an eclipse of the Sun, Seymour discovers a strange plant. He cares for it and names it Audrey II. While tending to the plant, Seymour discovers its rather unique appetite. The plant grows and grows, as does Seymours’ infatuation for Audrey. But who will get her first?

Little shop of immersion

From the moment you enter the theatre you are met with the pre-show of the drunk homeless guy wandering around yelling at everything or nothing depending on how much you believe he has drunk, and the mother and daughter on their way from nowhere to somewhere else, arguing all the while. The main stage presented the inside of Mushnik’s Florist (or, if you’re like me and read the sign through the window literally, ‘Skinhsum Tsirolf’), and a very convincing city ambience seemingly coming from outside of the shop. A few random characters are pottering around the shop, plenty to draw the eye until the show starts.

Little shop of actors

The 3 part harmony of ‘The Ronnettes’ was the backbone of the entire play, and they held it together beautifully. You could tell that a LOT of work had gone into the parts by Ashton Prior, Vicki Lowman, and Evie Baker each having their individual moment to shine at some point in the show. Seymour was portrayed as typically shy and awkward, a real ‘caterpillar waiting to turn into a butterfly’ by Nick Gardner, not an easy job to remain so humble amidst all of the ‘large’ personalities around him. Seymour’s relationship with Audrey was earnest and well meaning, and proof that the good guys should always triumph! Richard Edwards’ Mr. Mushnik (Mr Kinhsum?) provided a solid, yet increasingly frustrated father figure to both Seymour and Audrey (Kids: can’t live with them, adopt them, feed them to a bloodthirsty plant!). The biker dentist was very enjoyable, played by Ben Lea with such devilish abandon (look at me – I’m bad, I do bad things, but you love me… YOU LOVE ME! You do really, even if you sort of hate me) in many ways, despite the obvious antagonist, he was the pantomime bad guy.

Special mention should be given for the scene with the drunk bums invading the shop, having an argument with absolutely no words, and just grunts and gestures. I had no idea what was going on. It was hilarious.

But without a shadow of a doubt, the shining light of the show was Marta Nuevo Goode, playing Audrey 1. She drew the eye whenever she was on stage, her powerful yet sensitive vocals filled the theatre with the sadness, the longing and ultimately the love shared with Seymour. Marta also had a very good sense of comic timing, which although Audrey was not a comic character, still brought across a wicked sense of fun that endeared her to the audience. It was her first leading role. You would think she had been doing this for years.

Little shop of terror

From the moment the show starts, you’re looking. Where is the plant? Unless you’re from another galaxy, you know about the plant. Little Shop of Horrors IS the plant. Even when it is off-stage, in a back-room through a doorway, you know it’s there, sinister, lurking, awaiting its entrance.

And eventually, there is Audrey 2, making an entrance that is so unassuming in the arms of Seymour, so sweet, so innocent, so bloodthirsty, an imminent apocalypse bound up in leaves. Stretching up when properly fed, it actually manages to look cute. Like a Venus fly-trap looks cute because it’s small.

And from that point on, the chaos ensues. I had to laugh. Seymour running about with a juvenile Audrey 2 on his arm reminded me of Rod Hull with Emu, except if Emu had teeth, and an appetite for blood.

The plant grows. And grows. If you know anything about the musical….. it grows….and stares at you in the audience. Seeing the full size Audrey 2 was a little unnerving from our seats, since the beast was angled in our direction, and hungered as it glowered at us. Audrey came alive with the deliciously sinister voice of Oliver Lea, seductive, demanding, never satiated. I am aware that there have been other productions that have used tricks of the light, silhouettes to portray Audrey 2, but quite frankly nothing compares to the full scale puppet. And having seen the mechanics, and how the plant was operated, much kudos to the puppeteers at every stage of Audrey II’s growth. That was a hell of a feat.

Little shop of pleasure

Every number in this production was great, delivered with gusto and passion. The cast really immersed themselves in the roles. I love a good harmony, and they were all spot on, up to 6 point in places.  The lighting filled the hall with the epic glow of chlorophyll. We all felt we had fallen victim to the monster lurking on stage. The sound reached every corner of the hall, making the audience feel the love of Seymour for Audrey, the menace of Audrey II. The fantastic musicians never put a note wrong. The choreography was well executed and clearly very well directed.

Which brings me onto the unsung heroes of the production. The ensemble. Filling the space around the main cast on a stage that has limited space is no mean feat, yet the blending of so many people in so many different directions felt more like a dance, a gyrating flash-mob of potential victims that culminated in a plant-fuelled orgy at the end of the show.

It feels like this iteration of Little Shop of Horrors was created by someone who really knew what they wanted, who had a clear vision and their own, slightly manic, interpretation of the source material. Well done to all involved. I name this ship the S.S. Sodbury Vale. May the theatre gods bless her, and all who sail in her…… just don’t sail with any talking plants.

MWH

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