Little Shop of Horrors
Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman, Music by Alan Mencken
Menier Chocolate Factory
A year ago the Menier scored its biggest hit to date with Sunday in the Park with George, a musical that managed a decent West End run early in 2006. There can be little doubt that this wonderful revival of a really intelligent and extremely funny musical will follow suit.
Generally, when a critic goes overboard about a set, it is a damning comment on every other aspect of a show. In this case David Farley, who won several awards for George last year and very belatedly the Evening Standard last week, has once again demonstrated incredible feeling for this space and the show.
The rundown houses of Skid Row fit between a shop and dental surgery that pop-out like a children's book. These expand the already wide space but are finally dwarfed (literally) by Audrey 2 the blood-guzzling pot plant, given life by puppeteer Andy Heath, which grows to the proportions of a hippopotamus and, at the death, provides an unforgettable closing image.
The set is put to good use by a well-chosen cast, seemingly selected with comic effect as the primary goal, though their musical talents are never less than adequate.
The very talented Sheridan Smith from Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps gives a charming comic performance as Audrey 1, a barely-dressed flower-shop girl with a taste for bastards.
She is saved from Orin Scrivello, a sadistic dentist (but aren't they all?), by her geeky colleague and secret admirer, Seymour. Paul Keating plays this simple man who discovers a plant that saves his boss's business but only at a Mephistophelian cost.
As the plant gets famous, the locals, many of them played with great wit and energy by Jasper Britton, mysteriously disappear. Only Seymour and an unconventional but tuneful three-woman chorus named after sixties girl bands know where they have gone.
This sci-fi spoof also has great fun at the expense of the musical genre. There are take-offs of almost everyone with Springsteen piano riffs; a bit of Fiddler on the Roof; a monstrous plant (played by the spooky Mike McShane) that specialises in revisiting the blues and Meatloaf; and a bizarre dental chair conjunction of Brecht and Weill with Gilbert and Sullivan.
If its main subject were not gory death, one might suggest that Little Shop of Horrors is a really life-affirming show with its rock music and classic comic timing thanks to Howard Ashman's great script and Matthew White's inventive direction.
Don't miss out. It deserves to get a West End run but however good that might be, the informal intimacy of the Menier will not be replicated.
Philip also reviewed this production on its West End transfer to the Duke of York's
Reviewer: Philip Fisher