REVIEW: Little Shop of Horrors

Weird, Witty, Wacky and utterly Brilliant.

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I’d never seen Little Shop of Horrors prior to last night. Friends told me that it was a real cult musical. But having now seen the ADC production of the 1980s classic I can say I’m a paid up member of the cult.

This is Cambridge theatre at its most eccentric best. What we are left with is something that leaves the entire audience buzzing with glee.

From the outside Little Shop’s plot sits on the wilder side of bizarre. Based in a New York florist, the story focuses on Seymour, a florist assistant who raises a plant that feeds on human flesh and blood.

Under the thumb of the cranky Mr Mushnik, Seymour grows the plant while also being secretly in love with his co-worker Audrey, a love so profound that Seymour proceeds to name the plant Audrey II. In the way of this love story is an evil dentist and Audrey II’s  increasing demand for more and more human flesh. Sounds crazy right?

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Credit: Johannes Hjorth

It is. In the best way possible. The cast are evidently seeping with talent. Adam Mirksy‘s Seymour brings with it the charm and humour that gracefully guides us through the show from curtain up to curtain call. Olivia Gaunt as Audrey is just as impressive, nailing the New Yorker accent in and out of song and showing a sincere emotional depth, quite an achievement considering the show revolves around a giant venus fly trap.

Stanley Thomas‘s Mushnik is also of note, negotiating old crankiness with fantastic comic timing. Orin the dentist, played by Ben Cisneros, stands out as the real comic tour de force of the show- his evil dentist brilliantly falling somewhere between Jim Carrey and Danny Zuko.

In the same way, the trio of Holly Musgrave, Clara van Wel and Sophie Foote bring the show to superb musical heights, as if we were watching the Supremes strut their stuff themselves.

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Getting into the swing of things

What struck me throughout was how grand of a scale this production was. And the amount of stuff that could potentially go horribly wrong. Huge credit to Rebecca Vaa whose professional direction made the show flow with ease and panache.

I was especially impressed with the choreography, which was so well refined and slick. Shout out too to the puppeteers encased in the carnivorous avocado for the entire show, the detailed prop and set team and the stella band under Joe Beighton who brought Motown right into the heart of the ADC. Every member of the audience had a swing in their step on leaving the theatre.

Like any first night, there were niggles: a wonky spotlight and a faulty door that just wouldn’t open however hard the cast pushed it. This, though, should not and cannot detract from what was a polished, detailed, gleeful and splendidly humorous production. Sure, it’s a bloody weird premise. Making music and laughter isn’t your normal reaction to murderous flora. But that’s what makes it so refreshing. It’s unapologetically unpretentious, camp and refuses to take itself too seriously, yet remains acutely professional.

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Much horror, very musical

So if life has all got a bit serious mid term, I cannot think of a better remedy than a dose of this. Seeing a giant human devouring pot plant blasting out a power ballad will mend any broken heart, tired brain or pickled liver.

Tickets should, and will, sell out for this. Gobble one up while you can. 

5/5 stars