DIRECTING a ‘best-loved musical’ is not necessarily the simplest of productions to undertake – mainly because the majority of your audience will have seen it before and will demand more of the same.
Director Kevin Middleton didn’t tread on too many toes in his interpretation of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre last night, but managed to add his own footprint by bringing a semblance of realism to the silliness.
With his subtle references to misogyny and anti-Semitism, Middleton enlists our sympathy for Mushnik, the nice old Jewish flowershop owner and for his young shop assistant Audrey who allows herself to be a punch bag for her dentist boyfriend Orin’s sick pleasure.
It’s a clever bit of scripting that makes the most odious character not the person eating plant Audrey II, but Orin the dentist.
Let’s face it dentists already get a bad press – a seat in their chair is the least favourite outing for young and old.
So in ‘Little Shop’ Orin does for dentists what Sweeny Todd does for barbers – three cheers for the plant when he gobbles him up. Oh shucks, that’s a spoiler!
Martin Sadd makes a believable and likable Mr Mushnik – that is once he emerges from behind a very awkward opening state of a large frame on his desk, which left me searching for where the nebulous voice was coming from.
Audrey is played with little bo-peep sweetness by Helena Stanway and is complemented by Daniel Parker as her love struck co-worker Seymour. They gel together exquisitely, in words, action and song.
Kimberley Maynard, Hannah Lyons and Becky Johnson – Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette respectively make up the Skid Row chorus. From the moment they literally jump through the opening curtain they sparkle. Whilst others struggled to kick-start their roles on opening night, this dynamic trio owned the stage from the get-go. Maynard has the added bonus of golden tonsils.
The big set piece everyone waits in anticipation to see grow from a pot to a monster is Audrey II, the heinous plant from outer space. The Crescent’s version is a clever design and construction by Jenny Thurston and Marlyn Romer – their Audrey II is a sprawling , living, breathing colossus. Thurston also acts as on-stage puppeteer. Mark Shaun Walsh voices the carnivorous botanical freak.
Keith Harris adds another notch to his top-boy set designs this season, Colin Lang adds some rock move choreography and Chris Arnold waves a baton over a talented band.
The first night nerves will no doubt be replaced by ‘growing’ confidence – there is much to enjoy here for ‘Little Shop’ aficionados and newbies alike. Well worth going into town for.
Little Shop of Horrors runs until Saturday, May 7, at the Crescent – click here for times, tickets and more.
Review by Euan Rose
Euan Rose Reviews