Left – Esther Hannaford and Brent Hill. Photo – Jeff Busby
Little Shop of Horrors is a superb revival of a cult musical classic that’s also an evening of unadulterated bliss. The show is a brilliantly crafted and wickedly funny horror-musical starring Brent Hill as Seymour Krelborn, a mild-manner florist’s assistant. Audrey, (Esther Hannaford), his vulnerable colleague – who under the bruises and the handcuffs is a lovely vulnerable girl – stumbles through her trials and tribulations with such heart-felt charm it, is impossible not to surrender to her charms. But the jewel at the heart of this production is Audrey II; a murderous, man-eating plant, resembling a punk-rock Triffid, who is bent on world domination.
How funny can a flowery brash story about a boy, a girl and a botanical curiosity actually be? The answer is extremely humorous. Director, Dean Bryant brings a cinematic style to the proceeding that propels the story at a brisk tempo, trouncing any deficiencies in spectacular effects and intimacy. Indeed, he triumphantly reinvents the tale for a new generation of musical theatre devotees, conveying with dexterity and vision this play’s blend of comedy, musicality and theatricality, and in some ways susceptibility.
Augmented by a fine-voiced cast in top form, and interspersed with moments of poignancy, parody and macabre action, the production is first class entertainment that succeeds in its ambitions. That, in itself, is a rarity, indeed.
The set is squeezed onto the stage and Mushnik’s Florist shop takes most of the space, with Orin’s dental practice and various small pieces wheeled in front of the store that is covered by a curtain. It is difficult due to the confined area to evoke the grime of Skid Row and the despondency of its denizens. But Owen Phillips’ set design offers hints which are satisfactory to convey the dereliction.
Emerging from the impoverishment, the cast have the overstated characteristics of cartoon caricatures – especially the beehive coiffured chorus girls, Chiffon (Josie Lane), Ronnette (Chloe Zuel) and Crystal (Angelique Cassimatis) – who are named after 60s girl groups – and Orin the sadistic and self-lionizing dentist played energetically by Scott Johnson.
Elsewhere, it is the finer items that make this a magnetic production. Ellen Simpson’s cheeky choreography lightens the syrupy sweet lyrics by harnessing them to mischievous steps. The band and the puppeteers are impressive throughout this kooky show that deserves to run for a long time to come. It is difficult to imagine a finer, more up-to-date reimaging of this curious classic, and meaner greener protagonist than the botanical nightmare that is the man-eating Audrey II.
Luckiest Productions and Tinderbox Productions present
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken
Director Dean Bryant
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide
Dates: 20 – 30 April, 2016
from May 4, 2016
from May 25, 2016
Playhouse Theatre QPAC
from June 1, 2016
His Majesty’s Theatre
from August 4, 2016