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REVIEW: Little Shop Of Horrors | Royal Exchange

Joan Davies on an untraditional and vastly enjoyable Christmas show

Written by . Published on December 15th 2014.

REVIEW: Little Shop Of Horrors | Royal Exchange

PART 50s science-fiction B-movie, part 60s boy-meets-girl stage musical, with a dash of Day of the Triffids and a Faustian heart, Little Shop of Horrors takes The Royal Exchange’s Christmas tradition of the non-traditional Christmas show a stage further. It’s great fun, though perhaps not for the youngest in the family, especially if you’re planning an upcoming dentist visit.

Prior to production, audience curiosity was centred around the plant. Everyone knew that Audrey Two would need a spectacular treatment to make her work in the Royal Exchange’s theatre-in-the-round space

Most people know the basis of the story. Seymour Krelborn (Gunnar Cauthery) and Audrey (Kelly Price) both work in Mr Mushnik’s (Sévan Stephan) unsuccessful flower shop in an unsuccessful part of town. Everyone dreams of success. Seymour yearns for a girlfriend, but doesn’t believe he’s interesting enough for a pretty girl like Audrey; Audrey yearns for conventional success with a husband and a garden, but doesn’t believe she’s good enough for a good man like Seymour. Mr Mushnik’s on the verge of closing down the shop. 

Seymour discovers a new and unusual plant, and names it Audrey Two. The plant is the catalyst whereby all characters move towards realising their dreams except for Orin, Audrey’s sadistic dentist boyfriend (Ako Mitchell), whose accidental yet avoidable death is welcome all round. And useful.

Little Shop of Horrors %28Audrey in the foregorund%29Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey in the foreground)

Kelly Price is a wonderful Audrey, capturing her vulnerability, and the wistfulness of her wishes singing Somewhere That’s Green. Gunnar Cauthery, whose fair hair can look grey in the lights, soon casts off the slightly old image to become a convincing young man, stumbling on success and succumbing to the temptations of charisma and the economic and sexual power it brings. Sévan Stephan enhances any musical theatre production. He has a great stage presence, is an agile mover, and is blessed with an attractive singing voice of clarity and power.

The story is introduced and reported on, Greek-chorus style, by a 60s-style girl group of three women, Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette. See what they did there? The three voices of Ellena Vincent, Ibinabo Jack, and Joelle Moses are soulful, the dance moves snappy and the commentary gently nudging with hints of satire.

Prior to production, audience curiosity was centred around the plant. Everyone knew that Audrey Two would need a spectacular treatment to make her work in the Royal Exchange’s theatre-in-the-round space. Audrey Two has to grow, move and feed.

Director Derek Bond and designer James Perkins recruited War Horse-experienced puppeteer Toby Olie to ensure Royal Exchange audiences meet an Audrey Two liberated rather than constrained by the space. Dancer and singer Nuno Silva gives movement, assisted by James Carlton and CJ Johnson, and an attractive and strong voice to Audrey Two as her character and purpose develop. Despite the male voice Audrey Two is female, at least in my mind; she just uses a male voice to command. After all it is the late 50s to early 60s.

Little Shop of HorrorsLittle Shop of Horrors

Music direction by Tim Jackson makes the most of Alan Menken’s tunes to showcase Howard Ashman’s lyrics. The tunes might not be particularly memorable, but are instantly recognisable, very entertaining, and move the story along. You can see why Menken and Ashman went on to such success in song-writing for Disney films such as Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Jackson leads a five-piece band to give the tunes such a vibrancy and movement that it’s not too surprising to discover that he’s behind the choreography too. A real song-and-dance man.

The whole show is a vastly enjoyable outing: mainly great fun, but also slightly scary, and with a current of wide-angle but relatively low-impact satire running through it. Its targets include celebrity culture, the American dream, science-fiction B-movies, and our self-congratulatory response to superficial success. 

The Royal Exchange is developing a habit of having sold-out shows. This one has a long run, but I’d still advise an early booking. 

Little Shop of Horrors runs at The Royal Exchange until Saturday 31 January 2015.

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Lesley HampsonDecember 18th 2014.

Great reviews all round for this production. One here from Joan and 4 stars in both the Times and Sunday times. Looking forward to seeing it on Saturday afternoon.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Ghostly TomDecember 19th 2014.

Saw it on Tuesday, it was good. I think you will enjoy it.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

So, I am astonished that you have managed to not only assign the incorrect actress to the female role of Crystal, but actually named a male actor in her place. For the record, Crystal is played wonderfully by Ellena Vincent, and Ako Mitchell (not Ako Michell as you wrote), is a fabulous male actor playing the role of Orin Scrivello the dentist, amongst others. It is extremely insulting to not even take the time to acknowledge the hard work and dedication that these actors put into their work. I also don't understand how it is even possible to make such an enormous error. Please rectify this and take more care in future reviews.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

You seem pleasant Anon. Presumably you've never made any mistakes during your working life?

EditorialJanuary 8th 2015.

Thanks for highlighting that Anon. It has been rectified. However, mistakes do happen and the writer did only get one actor's name wrong in a production with multiple actors. It is a rare mistake, perhaps 'astonished' is a bit much.

SquirrelitoJanuary 8th 2015.

Blimey, are we on Points of View? Even the Pope doesn't claim infallibility these days, love x

JoanJanuary 8th 2015.

I don't understand how it's possible to make such an enormous error either. My sincere apologies. I now have new specs.

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