Little Shop of Horrors
Book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken
Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, and touring
Abandon All Reason, ye who enter here. Because this is not your traitional play, musical, pleasant evening at the theatre, intense philosophical work, or any of the usual categories that turn up on stage at the Lyceum.
It is a horror story for children, though I did not see any cowering behind their parents, frightened to look up. And the striking thing about it was that it was exceptionally well done, making it exciting and unusual theatre. It takes place in a failing florists on Skid Row, staring with a couple of bums and a prostitute, and then moving into Mr Mushnik's flower shop, about to close down because of lack of business. But Seymour, one of the two employees, has 'invented' a new plant, which he names Audrey II, after Audrey who also works at the shop, and he covets but does not stand a chance against the glamorous dentist - call me Doctor. When he puts the little plant in the window, it attracts the attention of a customer who buys their stock of roses.
The plot grows rapidly, with the dentist making free with Audrey, while the plant Audrey II also grows and grows, and starts to get hungry - mainly for meat. Seymour interferes with Orin, the dentist's interference with Audrey, and finds himself in the dental chair, but before operating Orin needs a puff of gas and suffocates himself.
The next thing we notice is Seymour returning to Audrey II and feeding her with a couple of limbs detached from their owner - could it be Orin? But Audrey's appetite is insatiable and has to be satisfied so the plot runs out of characters and comes to a sticky end.
This brief description does not suggest a pleasant night out, but in fact the singing, the dancing and the interaction betwen the characters, not to be taken seriously, is well organised, exciting and enjoyable. All play their parts with gusto, and and it is difficukt to pick out any for special mention. Nadia di Mambro, Cathryn Davis and Donna Hines dance enthusiastically and their singing lit up the scenes with excitement. Mushnik and Audrey in the florists formed a backdrop for Seymour (Damian Humbley) to carry out his experiments, and to receive his sad laments for the love of Audrey, while at the same time being tyrannised by Audrey II, the horror he had created. Orin, the dentist (Alex Ferns), was truly objectionable with his powerful voice, and equally powerful personality, but after his demise, went on to play a number of rapid changes of role. And one must not forget the invisible Mike McShane as the voice of Audrey II, and the pupeteers, Andy Heath, Brian Herring and Iestyn Evans, invisible, but very active. And this also applies to the band, directed by Toby Higgins, with a great variety of styles from the past.
Reviewer: Philip Seager