Little Shop of Horrors

Alarms and phones go off at seven (thirty), and everyone settles in to see this anticipated revival of Alan Menken & Howard Ashman's Little Shop of Horrors. As a co-production from Octagon Theatre Bolton, New Wolsey Theatre, Theatre by the Lake, and Hull Truck Theatre, this new production is a fun night out but needs to be more spectacular.

Little Shop of Horrors is a sci-fi horror-comedy rock musical about a hapless florist shop worker, Seymour, who raises a plant that feeds on human flesh and blood. It features catchy songs and witty humour, making it a cult classic enjoyed by audiences for decades. The show has been revived numerous times, adapted into a film and an animated series, cementing its place as a beloved piece of musical theatre history.

Octagon's Artistic Director, Lotte Wakeham, directs this company of nine, most of whom are actor-musicians who create the band with some primary staging and movement from Sundeep Saini. The set has been designed to represent the store and the street simply with some essential props, such as dust bins. The simple set and costume design from TK Hay is pleasing and works well in various scenes.

Beneath Nic Farman's lighting design, this production was successfully eerie when needed and quickly shifted between the store and the glum downtown street. Alongside this was the sound design from James Cook, which brought the show to life. Although these departments provided a well-balanced show, they were slightly let down by the sound operator as some effects weren't quite synced with their staged counterparts.

Little Shop of Horrors was quite average at The New Wolsey, where it didn't present anything spectacular.

Featuring West End's Anton Stephans as the voice of Audrey II, he brought immense character to the blood-dependant and hungry man-eating plant in this sci-fi comedy. Unfortunately, his extreme vocal talents are not expressed on stage in what is ultimately a clunky and underwhelming puppet.

Designed and directed by Michael Fowkes, the menacing plant was little more than a tube with foam attached. Puppeteer Matthew Heywood regularly could not appear to move the puppet's mouth enough to match the words we heard. This was incredibly unfortunate as it detracted from Stephans' stellar vocal talents.

This show is great fun for a regional tour and embodies some of the iconic moments that make Little Shop of Horrors a fan favourite.

But Little Shop of Horrors is not just about the plant—Matthew Ganley as Orin Scrivello DDS and Andrew Whitehead as Mr Mushnik embody their characters with every essence of their being, bringing energy and life to the show. Whitehead dominated each scene with brilliant enthusiasm, bringing the money-mad Mr Mushnik to life and being immense fun to watch.

Audrey and Seymour, Laura Jane Matthewson and Oliver Mawdsley provided the life and energy this show needed. They were incredibly entwined as lovers and brought a sense of joyous pleasure to this comedy musical. Both with incredible vocal talents, their renditions of 'Somewhere That's Green' and 'Suddenly Seymour' were highlights of the entire show.

While the actor-musicians are incredibly talented and essential to the theatre, in this production, they do not add anything in particular, and the additional instruments are not used as part of the performance. Occasionally, this leaves room for development, where actor-musicians in costume are still on stage as a band, and then in the next song, an empty keyboard is left at the side of the stage.

Janna May, Zweyla Mitchell dos Santos, and Chardai Shaw primarily played these roles. They also joined the stage as Chiffon, Crystal, and Ronnette. All of whom did a good job of progressing the story where needed.

The band behind the scenes featured Migdalia van der Hoven on drums and Gabrielle Ball as Musical Director, who held the band together exceptionally well. The musical numbers in Little Shop of Horrors are well-known and easy to tap your leg to, and this show also provided that.

Overall, this regional tour of Little Shop of Horrors is a delight and embodies some iconic moments that make it a fan favourite and a perfect way to enjoy the famous musical with friends. While not presenting anything particularly spectacular, this small tour is a fun night out and a must-watch for Little Shop of Horrors fans.

This show was reviewed on the 6th March 2024 at the New Wolsey Theatre where it runs until the 23rd March 2024.  Tickets available here: Little Shop of Horrors - New Wolsey Theatre

Review written by Ryan Lenney


Photo credit: Pamela Raith

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You can still watch our interview with Oliver Mawdsley who plays Seymour here:

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