A CurtainUp London Review
Little Shop of Horrors
Maria Aberg's production for the Open Air has extravagant and spectacular design elements by Tom Scutt. From the moment we are introduced to the set in the auditorium we can see no expense has been spared to recreate Skid Row with its monochrome skyscrapers, some of which are falling over and a few peeling back to reveal the only colour on the set, that of the yellow foam which lies underneath the grey and white facades. The colour which is gradually added to the set is initially the green of plants in Mr Mushnik (Forbes Masson)'s flower shop.
The three girl chorus of Chiffon (Renée Lamb), Ronette (Christina Modestou) and Crystal (Seyo Omooba) set the scene and are choregraphed imaginatively while self effacing Seymour (Marc Antolin) tells us about his magic plant, Audrey II.
We meet Audrey (Jemina Rooper) who also works in the flower shop with a bruise on her cheek and see the culprit, her sadistic boyfriend and dentist, Orin (Matt Willis of the pop group "Busted"). Orin's song about the pain inflicting dentistry he practises is chilling but cannot reproduce the dental surgery seen in the film.
Seymour and his adopted father Mr Mushnik sing the Israeli inspired "Mushnik and Son" and dance a kind of pas de deux! Then comes a deviation from the show as I remember it when Audrey II pops out of her plant set and is personified by Vicky Vox, an American drag artist. Vicky Vox is larger than life and her demands to "Feed Me" made me shudder but somehow she seemed detached from the plant and although tentacles grew I found it hard to believe that she was a part of the plant.
The other film and on stage productions I have seen have kept the plant as a puppet which increases in size as she exposes her carnivorous appetite which for my money was more shocking and horrifically scary. The other weakness for me here was Jemina Rooper as the shortsighted Audrey, a good actress but whose singing voice isn't really up to musical leads.
But it is what it is and Vicky Vox dominates the stage with wonderfully spangled costumes in lime green and fuschia pink. A super duet between Seymour and the dentist "Now" closes the first act as Seymour lets Orin overdose on the nitrus oxide.
Act Two has the stand out song "Suddenly Seymour" as Audrey's eyes are opened to a good man. Matt Willis reappears with some fast costume changes as several representatives of the media to interview Seymour about his horticultural talent. As business increases for the flower shop Audrey's green tentacles increase and multiply to produce a gob smacking, jaw dropping finale of exotic plants of all fabulous types and the cast dressed in a costume collection of pinks and greens with sparkling fabrics and jewels and weird headdresses and eyes that come out on stalks.
Seymour's costume seems to have been inspired by a Mexican piñata with its excess of fringing with wide trousers.
This is the most extravagantly decorated musical I've seen at the Open Air. Its finale sent the crowd into ecstasy.
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Little Shop of Horrors
Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Music by Alan Menken
Based on the film by Roger Corman with screenplay by Charles Griffith
Directed by Maria Aberg
Starring: Matt Willis, Jemina Rooper, Marc Antolin, Vicky Vox, Forbes Masson, Renée Lamb, Christina Modestou, Seyo Omooba
With: Joe Allen, Josh Baker, Billy Cullum, Julian Hoult, Rosalind James, Bobbie Little, Helen Siveter, Mary Lyn Tiep
Design: Tom Scutt
Puppet Design: Max Humphries with Tom Scutt
Lighting Design: Howard Hudson
Choreographer: Lizzi Gee
Sound Design: Nick Lidster for Autograph
Musical Director: Cat Beveridge
Running time: Two hours 05 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0844 826 4242
Booking to 22nd September 2018
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 13th August 2018 performance at the Open Air Theatre, Inner Circle, Regent's Park London NW1 4NU (Tube: Baker Street)
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