Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s (they of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin” fame) Little Shop Of Horrors is set in the 1960s and tells the story of dorky flower shop worker Seymour Krelborn who finds a “strange and interesting” plant during a “total eclipse of the sun” (which should have set off warning bells there and then) and names it Audrey II after his unrequited paramour, fellow flower shop worker, Audrey. However, to survive and grow, the plant version needs human blood. The show is a parody of late 50/early 60s shlock/horror sci-fi movies.
The key sentences in the last paragraph are; “set in the 1960s” and “a parody of late 50/early 60s shlock/horror sci-fi movies”. Unfortunately, Director Justine C. Lewis’ vision has missed the mark by bringing most of the show into the 21st Century for no apparent reason. It doesn’t help that we have 60s style dresses and bouffants at the beginning and end. It’s all very confusing – especially with mobile phones and tablets appearing as props. As a director myself, I totally agree that a director must have a vision, but it must match the writer’s overall original concept. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! You can’t do Avenue Q without puppets!
Speaking of puppet – Audrey II is a puppet (courtesy of the Late Matt Byrne) but Lewis has ‘personalised’ the plant by having the talented Katie Elle Jackson appear on stage whenever the plant sings or speaks. This is quite distracting till one gets used to it and would probably be more effective if the plant moved its ‘lips’ up and down.
Don’t worry, there are some sparkling positives to this production. Annette Paterson and Deborah Prove’s choreography is energetic, fun and gives a salute to the original with the cast carrying it off well. The “Mushnik and Son” routine is hilarious. Usually seen onstage or in the orchestra pit playing, Liam Phillips makes his debut as Musical Director for this production with elan. He conducts a great sounding band well and has presented us with some fantastic vocals from the cast.
As nerdy, mawky Seymour who eventually grows balls (and the plant), Kristian Latella can’t be faulted. His is a spot on performance that is the highlight of the show. The three ‘Greek chorus’, Ronnette, Chiffon and Crystal are played wonderfully by Carolina Fioravanti, Kim Anastasiou and Madi Grey respectively. They zing!!
If you don’t know the show, then this production will probably bloom for you. If, however, you know it well, it will more than likely have some dirt on it.