A review by Leanne Robinson for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Little Shop of Horrors



Music by Alan Menken


Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman

Directed by Paul Taylor Mills


Musical Director - Huw Evans


Choreographer - Jodie Lee Wilde


Designer - Andrew Beckett

White Bear Theatre

5 – 23 April 2011


For those Little Shop of Horrors fans who took delight in the memory of the blood spattered, sing along 1986 film of the musical, staring Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene, the prospect of viewing a possibly, watered down stage version might be a disappointing prospect. White Bear Theatre, small but definitely homely, with the performance space itself an almost unexpected addition to the bustle of the pub, might seem an odd choice in which to stage such a production. However, wandering into the miniature secret garden, decked with a glorious array of artificial flowers courtesy of La CUISINIeRE, one can almost smell the heady scent of foliage in bloom as we enter Mushnik’s Florist. Those familiar with the story might expect a rogue vine to reach out a spidery finger and take a grab at them as they sit within the darkened room, dripping with blood - a crime scene waiting to be investigated…

The cryptic comedy Little Shop of Horrors tells the tale of hapless botanical genius Seymour (James Benn), a simpering wall-flower with a kind heart, who spends his time tending to the plants and flowers at Mushnik’s Florist on Skid Row, whilst desperately trying to conceal his “blooming” love for the shop’s flakey, glamorous assistant Audrey (Eliza Anderson). Little does Seymour know, but his fortunes are about to take a decidedly drastic turn when he discovers a very unusual plant, which he christens Audrey II. This spoof of 1950 sci-fi movies is a delightfully surreal classic and this production does not disappoint.

Directed by Paul Taylor–Mills, who manages to capture the camp, colourful chaos of sadistic dentists, alien plants and florists on the edge, accompanied by fun and flamboyant choreography by Jodie – Lee Wilde, the production delivers all that we expect from the twisted tale, with a few added surprises.

Audrey II, the man-eating, blood lusting lunatic bloom, is played with overtly sexual gusto by an excellent trio of male actors, Martin Milnes, Mikey Shearer and James Armstrong. They wriggle and writhe on the stage in the hope of seducing their next prey, a far cry from the giant, Venus flytrap like plant one might expect. Interesting to note, is that on alternative nights three women play the role, a change in dynamic that would shift the gender power struggle and make for quite a different performance. This decision to use real people to epitomize Audrey II might not be appreciated by all, but it seems to work.

The entire ensemble shine, both metaphorically and, literally thanks to the shimmering, retro, disco designs of Andrew Beckett. However stand-out performances were given by James Benn as loveable Seymour and Eliza Anderson as Audrey, whose soulful rendition of Somewhere That’s Green, brings a real tear to the eye. Ted McMillan as Audrey’s villainous boyfriend is also one to watch. Difficult indeed to compete with the performance of Steve Martin in the film of the musical, based on the original, 1960 film, but he makes it his own. So good are the performances, one cannot help but wonder what might have been achieved with a larger set, in a larger venue, but such thoughts are fleeting, as this small production has huge character, glittering, uplifting, charming and laugh out loud funny moments, despite its gruesome premise. This show’s unrelentingly cheerful, toe tapping songs will have you singing all the way home too – one to watch again and again.
Box Office: 08444 77 1000
White Bear Theatre
138 Kennington Park Road
London SE11 4DJ
Tickets £12 – £15
Monday to Saturday 7:30pm
Sunday 6:00 pm

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