REVIEW: Little Shop of Horrors ★★★★ – Open Air Theatre

“…a colourful, camp riot of a show – bizarre, tongue-in-cheek, and a black comedic enigma”

★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

 

Little Shop of Horrors is a spoof musical by Howard Ashman, with music by Alan Menken, based on the 1960 black comedy b-movie of the same name. The musical debuted on Off-Broadway in 1982, where it ran for five years and became the third longest running musical and highest grossing Off-Broadway show in history. This production is the show’s second revival in London, following the original West End run at the now Harold Pinter Theatre (then Comedy Theatre) in 1983, and the first revival at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2006 starring Sheridan Smith as Audrey.

The story revolves around a man-eating plant named Audrey II, which came to Earth following a “total eclipse of the sun” and is nurtured by the meek and mild, hapless Seymour, who works at Mushnik’s Skid Row Florist, and who names the plant after Audrey, his co-worker and secret crush. Audrey II is played by drag queen, Vicky Vox, who has magnetic stage presence and both amuses and horrifies with the continual delivery of the plant’s catchphrase, “Feed me!”. The plant takes on a life of its own, blackmailing Seymour into feeding it more people after devouring Audrey’s sadistic, unhinged, dentist boyfriend, Orin (played by Matt Willis (Busted (band), Footloose, Wicked), in return for making Seymour and Mr Mushnik’s (played by Forbes Masson (Summer and Smoke, Big Fish, Boudica)) failing florist shop, famous and successful. Mushnik later adopts orphan Seymour as his son to ensure his loyalty to the business in the disguise of kindness and affection with musical number ‘Mushnik and Son’.

In addition, there is a cutesy, yet foreseeably ill-fated, romance between Seymour and Audrey, for which Marc Antolin (The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, Into the Woods, Romantics Anonymous) and Jemima Rooper’s (The Norman Conquest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Respectable Wedding) overblown, animated caricature performances suit perfectly.

The setting for the story is Skid Row, a grungy, run-down part of New York, and Tom Scutt’s set design paints the scene of urban decay, city crowding and claustrophobia surprisingly well in the open-to-the-elements venue.

The trio of street girls, Christina Modestou (Six, Rent, Shrek) as Ronnette, Renee Lamb (Six) as Chiffon, and Seyi Omooba (Ragtime, Junkyard, Boxed) as Crystal, serve as the narrators of the show with their powerhouse vocal performances which shine through, never better than in the opening number of the show, ‘Little Shop of Horrors’. The score includes many other songs including, ‘Grow For Me’, ‘Suddenly, Seymour’, ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ and ‘Skid Row’.

Little Shop of Horrors combines themes of horror, romance, sci-fi, and urban decay. Satirising each element, this production is a colourful, camp riot of a show – bizarre, tongue-in-cheek, and a black comedic enigma.

Little Shop of Horrors is showing at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 22nd September (to book tickets, click here).

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