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A CurtainUp London London Review
Little Shop of Horrors

Feed Me.
---- Audrey II
Little Shop of Horrors
Audrey II as herself, Sheridan Smith as Audrey and Paul Keating as Seymour
(Photo: Alastair Muir)
In a delightful and thrilling production, Menken and Ashman’s cult musical Little Shop of Horrors comes back to London to the intimacy of London’s buzziest small space, the Menier Chocolate Factory. From the same team that brought the superlative Sunday in the Park with George to the Menier, Little Shop has been much anticipated in its new incarnation. Starring Paul Keating as the innocent Seymour and Sheridan Smith as deliciously dotty, short sighted Audrey would be treats enough but when you add the comic talent of Jasper Britton as Orin Scrivello the dentist, this is a very special evening.

I suppose it is crucial that the plant looks good and puppet creators Artem Limited have excelled in this exponentially, expanding lush green specimen which would not disgrace the Tropical House at Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens. In the final scene I shrunk away as the eerie tentacles stretched far out into the auditorium. The flowers on the final vast plant which feature the faces of the consumed plant food, people of course, is a charming if macabre touch. Thirty four people are listed in the programme as being involved in constructing the plant. From the opening scene with the combined singing talents of the weird street sisters Chiffon (Katie Kerr), Crystal (Melitsa Nicola) and Ronette (Jenny Fitzpatrick) who stare at the audience in a angrily sinister and deranged way, director Matthew White has commanded our full attention and made us grin at the same time.

I liked the way Skid Row was established as a difficult and seedy area in which to run a flower shop with the colourful local residents dancing an angular stylised choreography which would not have looked out of place in Rocky Horror. The designer has dressed everyone in fun 1960s costumes, the dentist’s biker leathers and Audrey’s little pink mini dresses with high heels for her to totter around on. The set with its brick dominated slum back drop is also perfect and there are enjoyable jokes like the advice to the actors to get out of the way of the moving scenery. In these walk on roles is the ever present Jasper Britton whose subtle clowning skills are second to none in the cameos. As the sadistic dentist with a penchant for laughing gas and crocodile clips on his nipples, he is at the same time oddly seductive and interestingly scary. Later three quick costume changes have Britton arriving onstage as various representatives of the news media culminating in the charming and fashionable wife of the editor of Life magazine.

Sheridan Smith as blonde shop girl Audrey is sweetness and light with a lovely singing voice but she is so short sighted that without her glasses she comically walks into doors. Her inability to see Seymour as a suitor is one of the drivers of the play as boy is destined to win girl from evil dentist only to lose her to his other passion. Paul Keating has always had musical star potential and he is perfectly cast here as the chap who loves both Audreys. I enjoyed the characterisation too of the shop owner, Mr Mushnik (Barry James). The song "Mushnik and Son" is a celebration of close Jewish family ties and wonderful Israeli music. Mike McShane is the deep voice of Audrey II and Andy Heath is the pupeteer.

Menken’s rock music is fun and accessible, Ashman’s lyrics are full of wit and black humour. Tickets to Little Shop of Horrors are the perfect Christmas present! Don’t miss it!

The Menier has a restaurant which offers meal deals with show tickets from just £20 and the featured recipes on the menu may link in with the show! Booking for the restaurant on 020 7378 1712.

For plot details and the complete song list see link to the New York production
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 Matthew White

Starring: Paul Keating, Sheridan Smith and Jasper Britton
With: Katie Kerr, Melitsa Nicola, Jenny Fitxpatrick, Barry James, Mike McShane, Andy Heath (Puppeteer), Corrie Mac, Matt Eames
Design: David Farley
Choreography: Lynne Page
Audrey II plants created by Artem Limited
Musical Supervision: Caroline Humphris
Music Director: Alan Berry
Vocal Arrangements: Robert Billig
Orchestrations: Robby Merkin
Puppet Consultant: Nigel Plaskett
Lighting: Paul Anderson
Sound: Gareth Owen for Orbital
Producer: David Babani
Running time: Two hours ten minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 7907 7060
Booking to 25th February 2007
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 1st December 2006 performance at the Menier Chocolate Factory, 51/53 Southwark Street London SE1 (Tube: London Bridge)
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©Copyright 2006, Elyse Sommer.
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