Review: Little Shop of Horrors

Pippa Smith 3 November 2016

Little Shop of Horrors, a musical written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, showed its opening performance at the ADC last night to a packed-out crowd. It was definitely a night to remember; the gruesome, yet comically satirical play was conducted professionally and in true musical theatre form, leaving everyone singing at its closing. It wasn’t without its faults, but it is unclear whether this was just a result of first-time nerves: it was hard not to appreciate the meticulous planning and rehearsal that went into making the actual performance a success.

Little Shop of Horrors is a bizarre play, but the cast performed it well, each embracing every aspect of the characters they were portraying. The most striking feature of the small cast was the fact that they all put so much effort and enthusiasm into their part, and this energy kept the audience hooked throughout.

There were some standout performances; the vocal talents of Audrey (Olivia Gaunt) and Seymour (Adam Mirksy) were brilliant, and this was especially evident in Audrey’s solo, ‘Somewhere that’s Green’, where despite the blood-thirsty nature of the play, many of the onlookers teared up. Audrey Two (Megan Gilbert) also had an amazing voice, even though the audience never sees her actually sing as anything but a plant. The cast worked together well as a whole, with close nit harmonies perfectly executed. There were a few off notes, but that is to be expected on the first night of one of the biggest productions of term.

The choreography was tight, and you could clearly see the amount of time that had been invested in rehearsals. Of particular merit were Ronnette (Holly Musgrave), Crystal (Clara van Wel) and Chiffon (Sophie Foote), whose excellent dancing complemented their vocals, as well as impressing with their ability to pull the whole thing off in heels. The stage direction was also effective – the actors used the space they had to the full, and it was only when the entire cast came together that there was some obstruction and shuffling.

The set design was poor and it felt like this distracted from the high bar that had been set from the all-singing-and-dancing performance. It seemed unfinished and flimsy, as for example, the door on set kept jamming and the plant kept being flattened.  The cast seemed like they were not used to working with the set and props, and there were many instances of props falling over or being left out.  Scene changes were thus not as good as they should have been, and in one case a member of the production team was left on stage.  Again, one can attribute this to it being the first night, but it felt as if overall the actors were ready to perform but the set hadn’t been quite as well thought out and rehearsed as the rest.

The lighting was far from flawless, and once more it seemed like additional practice needed to be invested for it to be completely in sync with the cast. However, the sound, namely the band, was fantastic. They played throughout, and despite not being able to see the performers or be seen themselves, were never a note or beat out of line in accompaniment. 

Little Shop of Horrors was different and unusual, although it was perhaps not as slick as it should have been for the amount of investment and effort put in by the cast. The set design was clumsy and was not good enough for the high standard of performance. Overall though, this was musical theatre as it should be and the freaky, fun and far-out play was executed well.