Little Shop of Horrors

Posted by Laurence Green

This camp, funny and sometimes sinister show is without a doubt the best production of the summer season writes Laurence Green.

Little Shop of Horrors

It is not often you find a show with real bite in more ways than one but this is certainly the case with Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s tongue-in-cheek 1982 musical Little Shop of Horrors which returns in a hugely enjoyable new production, directed by Maria Aberg at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park.

The action unfolds in Mr Mushnik’s struggling flower shop in down-at-heel Skid Row - a place of broken dreams and dead ends. When the hapless flower shop assistant Seymour discovers a mysterious new plant with killer potential, he names it “Audrey II” after the sweet-natured colleague whom he pines after. At first the outlandish organism – initially a lurid multicoloured puppet with a ruff of green ping-pong balls – entices new customers but the more it grows, the deadlier it gets, guzzling more victims, intent on world domination.

This stage musical, which is derived from Roger Corman’s cult 1960 comedy B-movie of the same name, eagerly feeds off such familiar genres as early rock n’ roll, Motown and doo-wop and is as far as I know the only musical to feature such a rampantly carnivorous plant as its main character. Director Maria Aberg, however, brings a real freshness and zest to the proceedings and that comes, if you’ll excuse the pun, from an infusion of new blood to the musical genre. The production numbers such as “Suddenly Seymour” and “Skid Row” remain as catchy as ever.

Tom Scutt’s design depicts the derelict Skid Row very well as a dark and oppressive landscape full of crooked high-rise buildings and dingy backstreets, whereas the plants are neon coloured and cleverly styled from a variety of domestic utensils.

The performances rise splendidly to the occasion. The leads Marc Antolin and Jemma Rooper as Seymour and Audrey I respectively combine sincerity with spoofiness. Forbes Masson convinces as the neurotic store-owner Mr Mushnik while Matt Willis provides the gruesome moments as Audrey’s sadistic dentist boyfriend, Orin, and there’s tuneful support from the three-woman doo-wop chorus.

But the star of the show is undoubtedly American drag queen Vicky Vox, a vision in green glitter lipstick and cerise sequined stilettos as Audrey II who, just before the interval, suddenly burst out of the plant. Vox has a seductive voice and filthy chuckle and excels at an aura of diva-ish danger, growling the command “Feed Me!” to continually meet her insatiable thirst for blood.

This then, is a camp, funny and occasionally sinister show that is without doubt the best production in the theatre’s summer season.

Little Shop of Horrors

Plays in Regent's Park's Open Air Theatre until September 15th.

Box Office: 0844 826 4242.

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