Her Majesty’s Theatre, Fri 22 Apr.
When talking about a true cult classic, it’s impossible to go past Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s ground-breaking musical about an alien plant with carnivorous intentions, Little Shop Of Horrors. Based on Roger Cormer’s 1960 B-grade comedy/horror movie of the same name, the duo transformed an altogether schlocky piece of celluloid into a timeless theatrical treasure that continues to delight audiences today. The original stage play was so well loved it went on to spawn the movie musical starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene and Steve Martin – and garnered a whole generation of devotees drawn to this Faustian tale of surrendering one’s morals for fame and riches.
The story of Little Shop Of Horrors revolves around the fortunes (and misfortunes it would seem) of lonely florist assistant Seymour Krelborn, performed by WAAPA Acting graduate and Helpmann Award nominee Brent Hill, a meek and nerdy orphan foundling desperately in love with co-worker Audrey – brilliantly performed by Green Room Award winner Esther Hannaford. Their relationship is at the heart of the story and is important in allowing audiences to suspend their disbelief long enough to accept the existence of a man-eating botanical, as well as Seymour’s sudden transformation from mild mannered nobody to someone capable of feeding various cast mates to a houseplant.
Hill was fabulous as the ill-fated Seymour, his performance especially impressive when we realise he is also voicing the diabolical plant, Audrey II as it exhorts Seymour with a deep Southern twang to “Feed me, Seymour!”. The vocal mastery required to perform two very different singing roles at the same time was a joy to experience, and a real highlight amongst many contained within the show.
Hannaford was an exquisite Audrey which she played in an endearingly captivating sense of naïve beauty and awkwardness; her stunning vocals soaring during the somewhat prophetic Somewhere That’s Green, and even more so in Act Two showstopper Suddenly Seymour. At other times she channelled a little bit of Marilyn Monroe-esque in her breathy, comic delivery as a Skid Row floozy caught in the vice of a violent relationship at the hands of sadistic dentist, Orin Scrivello, DDS, played with relish by Scott Johnson. In the vein of Wolf Creek’s nasty villain Mick Taylor, Johnson sardonically chuckles his way through a series of sequences that will ensure Adelaide audiences cancel their next dental appointments immediately!
The ‘Greek chorus’ played as Latino street urchins were beautifully performed by Josie Lane, Chloe Zuel and Angelique Cassimatis, all bringing the needed urban strut and sass required of their roles; each one a standout in their own right. As Yiddish shop owner Mr Mushnik, Tyler Coppin was a cantankerous mix of opportunist and mentor, although not quite the father figure we would wish for Seymour.
Ultimately, of course, the definitive star of the show was definitely Audrey II – a stunning creative re- interpretation of all the Audreys that have gone before. Erth Visual & Physical Inc. have truly created a memory for audiences that will be hard to beat. Their freakish flower was all gorged veins and reptilian leaves, snakelike tendrils and flytrap fangs – hideously, gloriously, colourfully crazed and a little bit terrifying. A feat of engineering and modern puppetry, Audrey II provides one of those ‘shake your head in wonder’ moments that is sure to have most everyone grinning from the inside out.
From the creative team behind 2014’s Helpmann Award winning Sweet Charity, this production of Little Shop Of Horrors remains faithful to the original stage play – darkly delicious and ferociously funny, held tightly together by bouncing choreography and a rocking musical score.
Owen Phillip’s stage design is a quirky tilted stage containing Mushnik’s Flower Shop, a gauzy curtain ‘closing’ the shop and providing a neat backdrop for a variety of crafty projections throughout the play. Lighting and sound married perfectly to bring the whole production to life, ensuring director Dean Bryant’s version of Little Shop Of Horrors is received as intended – funny, moving and scary all at once. Australian musical theatre has never been in better hands.
Rosie van Heerde
Little Shop Of Horrors continues at Her Majesty’s Theatre, at various times, until Sat 30 Apr.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.