A man, a plan, a carnivorous plant – Little Shop of Horrors is the musical (immortalised in the 1986 film) based on a 1960 B movie that was shot on a borrowed set in two days and featured an unrehearsed young Jack Nicholson. I only dimly remember the 1986 movie, but have never seen the 1960 one. The story is the tale of a Skid Row florists, on the brink of closure until an exotic plant (Audrey II) saves it, propelling geeky, naive Seymour, a role played tonight by Sam Lupton, and the shop into fame. But Seymour has a dark secret; Audrey II hungers for human flesh.
Our narrators are Crystal, played by Sasha Latoya; Chiffon, played by Vanessa Fisher; and Ronnette, played by Cassie Claire. I would happily pay for two hours of nothing but the three of them. They nailed the late 50s/early 60s Motown girl band harmonies, and were sassy and bubbly with it. Seymour is joined by Audrey (after whom the plant is named) played by Stephanie Clift in a wardrobe I’d like to borrow; Mushnik, flower shop owner, played by Paul Kissaun; and of course Audrey II, played by a series of ever increasing foam plant puppets. On the poster, and the front of the programme, however is “The Dentist” or to give him his given name, Orin. Played by Rhydian Roberts (just “Rhydian” in the programme, “Rhydian from the X Factor” to most) he is Audrey (the woman not the plant)’s abusive boyfriend. Little Shop of Horrors is a comedy, and it is very, very funny. It is not a subtle discourse on domestic violence. That said, The Dentist is pleasingly, unequivocally evil. No excuses are made for him and Audrey’s assertion she deserves no better, given her past, rings very sadly true. I last saw Rhydian in Joseph and while I was blown away with his singing, at that point his acting impressed less. He’s grown onto the stage, and gave the role a hint of camp, but a lot of genuine menace. Still, “Be a Dentist” is very funny and very well done, without ever making us empathise with Orin. Orin only gets two songs, but Rhydian comes back in Act Two as a few businessmen (and women) making Seymour offers he really should refuse.
Little Shop of Horrors is extremely well staged. It takes place in a compact location, amply provided by the scenery. The music, costuming and aesthetics perfectly capture the 1980s view of the 1960s (Motown with slap bass, leopardprint pencil skirts and hi top trainers). The music is perfect and of course there’s the real star of the show, Audrey II. From hand-held pot plant to stage-dominating, man-eating land-leviathan, Audrey II is the star of this (excellent) compact cast. Puppeted by Josh Wilmott and voiced by Neil Nicholas, Audrey II is no B movie creature, s/he is sublime.
Little Shop of Horrors is darkly comic, beautifully sung and well-acted. I worried that without fond memories of the film the musical would fall flat – I was wrong. It’s a great show and brilliantly done. It’s well worth spending a Suppertime with Audrey II. Just remember, an exotic plant like that needs more than Baby Bio.
[Catherine Rogan – 7 September 2016]
Little Shop of Horrors is at Woking’s New Victoria theatre from Wednesday 7 September to Saturday 10 September at 7.30pm plus Saturday matinee at 2.30pm