Little Shop of Horrors is one of those ‘hit or miss’ productions.
The company either takes the show too seriously, forgetting that Howard Ashman’s original screenplay was intended to be a satire of 1960s suburban American and the age-old, often unattainable, American Dream. Or the company throw themselves right into the production, wholeheartedly embracing the predictable, the stereotypical and the, sometimes, down-right cheesy which then results in a beautiful combination of catchy tunes, surprising tender moments and, of course, a whole lot of belly laughs.
Thankfully, this fresh 2016 tour is the latter. In fact, I might go back and see it again I enjoyed it that much.
Often hailed as being a much simpler production than most – one which features a small cast of roughly ten people, including puppeteers – Little Shop of Horrors is fairly popular (and frequently slaughtered) among amateur groups and schools.
However, it features some of the most underrated music in musical theatre history, including the smash hits ‘Suddenly Seymour’ and ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ which were both celebrated – before the stage musical arose – in the 1986 movie featuring Ellen Greene and Rick Moranis (that guy from ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’).
An offstage voice suddenly recalls a time in history when the human race “encountered a deadly threat to its very existence” – a mysterious venus flytrap which plant shop worker Seymour Krelborn has recently obtained.
Tired after a long day of no business, Mr. Mushnik is preparing to permanently close his plant shop when, suddenly, the plant catches the eye of a wealthy passer-by. The customer leaves with a huge order of of roses. Impressed by the plant’s potential to bring in new custom, greedy Mr. Mushnik orders Seymour to get the sick plant back to health quickly, though, the only way to do this seems to be with HUMAN BLOOD.
In honour of his co-worker, Audrey, whom he is secretly in love with, Seymour calls the plant Audrey II. With the help of his blood, the plant soon grows to record-breaking capacity, catching the attention of national TV and radio stations and driving custom at Mushnik’s Flower Shop crazy.
However, as Audrey II grows bigger and meaner, the carnivorous plant promises fame and fortune to Seymour for the price of his fresh blood. It’s just too late when he discovers Audrey II’s drive for world-domination…
Former X-Factor contestant Rhydian stole the show with his rendition of the sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello. Universally recognised by his light bulb hair and outstanding, operatic vocals, the 2008 X-Factor finalist finished second against Scotland’s very own Leon Jackson.
It was quite a nice surprise to see that he can in fact act, execute a number of tricky accents in various supporting roles and nail quick costume changes whilst never failing to hit every note perfectly.
Meanwhile, Stephanie Clift offered the audience arguably the most heart breaking performance of ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ since Ellen Greene.
She perfectly captured the hopeful qualities of her hugely self-doubtful character during this song especially, leaving everyone rooting for Audrey’s fairy tale dream to come true (ironing machine ‘n all).
Sam Lupton (Seymour) is clearly an all-rounder when it comes to musical theatre. He, too, captured the doubtful traits of his character whilst hitting every high note around during his performance as the lousy, former orphan.
Criticism only arises with regards to Paul Kissaun (Mr. Mushnik) whose accent couldn’t decide wither it was from cocky London or Central America most of the time. As a slightly lethargic performance in comparison to those of his energetic co-workers, Kissaun delivered the role soundly but lacked the spunk of his co-cast.
One standing ovation later and we have what might have been the best show of the year in 2016. I, likely among many others, feel privileged to have witnessed such a fantastic performance which had humour and sparkle in all the right places.
Little Shop of Horrors is running at the Theatre Royal Glasgow until 19 Nov 2016. Tickets available here.