Friday, 6 May 2016

Little Shop of Horrors, May 5, 2016 ****

Music by Alan Menken, book by Howard Ashman
Produced by Luckiest Productions & Tinderbox Productions
Comedy Theatre until May 22, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online  on Fri May 6, 2016 & iater in print . KH

The gigantic, flesh-eating plant in Little Shop of Horrors looks like the mutant progeny of an oversized, frill-necked lizard and an enormous pink and green artichoke.

In this horror-comedy-rock musical (music by Alan Menken, book by Howard Ashman), a geeky young florist, Seymour Krelborn (Brent Hill), finds and rears an unusual and seemingly innocuous plant that thrives on human blood and flesh and evidently came down in the last meteor shower.

Lovelorn Seymour names the plant Audrey II, after his ditzy co-worker, Audrey (Esther Hannaford), who he secretly adores, and Mr. Mushnik’s (Tyler Coppin) florist shop goes gangbusters after the public discover this eccentric shrub that just keeps on flourishing on flesh.

Dean Bryant’s taut production, with snappy and audacious choreography by Andrew Hallsworth, captures the quirkiness and absurdity of this parodic musical that became a cult classic after being spawned from Roger Corman’s 1960 B-grade movie.

Esther Hannaford is the stand out with her hilariously idiosyncratic and detailed depiction of the idiotic but adorable Audrey, and she mines huge laughs from her twitchy, angular physicality and from the tiniest snippets of dialogue or Audrey’s effusive squeaks and moans.

Hannaford’s versatile voice is bright-toned and sweet in the ballad, Somewhere That’s Green, but is thrilling when she balances bold, belting notes with softness in her duet with Hill, Suddenly, Seymour.

Hill brings his distinctive, comic talent and impeccable timing to the daggy Seymour and his formidable vocal skill is a highlight when he belts out the raunchy, James Brown-style funk number, Git It (Feed Me), singing it as the voice of the grotesque plant, Audrey II.

Alan Menken’s music, played by Andrew Worboys and his tight band, ranges in style from the Rhythm and Blues of Skidrow (Downtown) to 60s rock, funk, Doo-Wop and Motown.

Coppin is a Chaplinesque clown as Mr. Mushnik, the florist, while Scott Johnson as the sadistic dentist, Orin Scrivello, is like a bizarre giggling Elvis.

The three tough, sassy, powerfully voiced gals played by Angelique Cassimatis (Crystal), Josie Lane (Chiffon) and Chloe Zuel (Ronnette) provide assured, harmonious vocals but also fill in narrative detail as would a Greek chorus.

Audrey II, designed by Puppet Erth, is a vivid, bumptious, manipulative and scary creature that devours people in increasingly gruesome ways.

Little Shop of Horrors succeeds as a kooky, cult classic that entertains the audience with its impudent parody of schlock horror.

By Kate Herbert

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