Sometimes us London based people with access to the West End and all manner of fringe theatres, can be a little, well let’s be honest, snobbish about regional theatre. It doesn’t help that often a show does fantastically in the West End with a wonderful cast, then goes off as a nationwide tour and the star names suddenly are missing and the producers are relying on a name that most people will recognise to bring the punters in. I have to say that based on my experience, touring productions and the often beautiful theatres they perform in, should never be thought of as second cousins to the West End. A case in point is Little Shop of Horrors which has kicked off a four month 14 city tour at the New Wimbledon Theatre.
The story is a fairly simple one. Unlikely hero Seymour Krelborn (Sam Lupton) works in Skid Row’s only florists owned by Mr Mushnik (Paul Kissaun). The shop, as with everything in Skid Row, is not doing well and Mushnik is on the verge of closing down when his shop assistant Audrey (Stephanie Clift) suggests that Seymour go and get the strange and exotic new plant he has been working on and put it in the shop window to attract more customers. The plant, named by Seymour as Audrey II (Josh Wilmott and Neil Nicholas) fascinates everyone that sees it, including Audrey’s sadistic dentist boyfriend Orin Scrivello DDS (Rhydian), leading to the flower shop starting, if you’ll pardon the pun, to bloom and grow. Everyone wants to know about the plant. Where did it come from? How does Seymour, who is ultimately a ham-fisted clutz, look after it? Does it have any special food? Only Seymour knows the answers to these questions and he can’t tell anybody the truth.
How to describe Little Shop of Horrors? Oh yes, just one word repeated many times – Awesome!, Awesome, and thrice Awesome! – should do it. What a fantastic production. From the darkly run down looking set and costumes designed by David Shields through to the lighting (Charlie Morgan Jones), choreography (Matthew Cole) and Direction (Tara Louis Wilkinson) this was a first rate show. When you add in the wonderful book, songs and lyrics by by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman, then Little Shop is a sure fire winner all round.
The story and layout are very much old 1950s style ‘B’ movie but with the added bonus of a stunning ‘Greek Chorus’ in the shape of Crystal (Sasha Latoya), Ronette (Cassie Clare), and Chiffon (Vanessa Fisher) commenting on everything – and adding lovely backing vocals to a lot of the songs. Whilst this is not Proust or Shakespeare, that doesn’t matter. Little Shop of Horrors was not written to educate the masses, it is simply there to entertain and give the audience a couple of hours away from the real world – something it does in spectacular style.
And speaking of vocals, both Sam Lupton and Stephanie Clift were on sparkling form with their singing. In fact, by the end of their wonderful duet ‘Suddenly Seymour’ – my favourite song in the show – I was wiping the tears away yet again. The rest of the cast were equally impressive and yes Rhydian can act as well as sing and, especially in the second act showed his real versatility as an actor. So, a fantastic cast and before moving on let’s give a special shout out to Josh Wilmott who makes the Audrey II look and feel so alive and realistic with his control of it.
Little Shop of Horrors is one of my all time favourite musical films but I had never seen it live on stage until this performance. Lynne, my companion to Little Shop, had never seen either version but her big grin and happy face, plus the conversation we had back to the train station left me in no doubt how much she had enjoyed the production. I can’t disagree with her. This production of Little Shop of Horrors is perfect in every way. It is enjoyable all the way through, and if you are lucky enough to live in one of the towns it is visiting over the next few months, don’t mess around, get yourself a ticket and sit back, relax and enjoy yourself in the gutters of Skid Row.
Review by Terry Eastham
A charming, kooky and hilarious 1950s musical comedy, Little Shop of Horrors tells the story of Seymour, the assistant at Mushnik’s Flower Shop in downtrodden Skid Row, who becomes an overnight sensation when he discovers a strange and exotic plant. He names it Audrey Two in order to impress glamorous Audrey, the shop assistant he’s secretly in love with. But Audrey Two has a mind of its own, and soon grows into a bad-tempered, foul-mouthed carnivore with an appetite that can’t be satisfied. Seymour must keep the meals coming to stop his prized plant from wilting, but how far is he willing to go to get the girl of his dreams?
2016 UK TOUR (Forthcoming dates)
Monday 22 – Saturday 27 August 2016
Press night: Tuesday 23 August, 7.30pm
Box Office New Wimbledon Theatre | 020 8545 7900
Tuesday 30 August – Saturday 4 September 2016
BELFAST OPERA HOUSE
Box Office www.goh.co.uk | 028 9024 1919
Tuesday 6 – Saturday 10 September 2016
WOKING New Victoria Theatre
Box Office New Victoria Theatre | 0844 871 7645
Tuesday 13 – Saturday 17 September 2016
AYLESBURY Waterside Theatre
Box Office Waterside Theatre | 0844 871 7607
Tuesday 20 – Saturday 24 September 2016
LICHFIELD Garrick Theatre
Box Office www.lichfieldgarrick.com | 01543 412121
Tuesday 27 September – Saturday 1 October 2016
BIRMINGHAM Alexandra Theatre
Box Office New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham | 0844 871 3011
Monday 3 – Saturday 8 October 2016
CARDIFF New Theatre
Box Office www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk | 029 2087 8889
Tuesday 11 – Saturday 15 October 2016
Box Office www.thespabridlington.com | 01262 678258
Monday 17 – Saturday 22 October 2016
CHELTENHAM Everyman Theatre
Box Office www.everymantheatre.org.uk | 01242 572573
Wednesday 26 – Saturday 29 October 2016
COVENTRY Belgrade Theatre
Box Office www.belgrade.co.uk | 024 7655 3055
Monday 31 October – Saturday 5 November 2016
MANCHESTER Palace Theatre
Box Office Palace Theatre Manchester | 0161 245 6600
Monday 14 – Saturday 19 November 2016
GLASGOW King’s Theatre
Box Office King’s Theatre | 0844 871 7648
Tuesday 22 – Saturday 26 November 2016
BLACKPOOL Grand Theatre
Box Office www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk | 01253 290190