Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

A far-fabled tale of social mobility and man-eating greenery.

Little Shop of Horrors

Curtain Call , Morlan Centre Aberystwyth , May 28, 2007
Little Shop of Horrors by Curtain Call Having only ever seen snippets of the film of Little Shop of Horrors, and having been a little less than favourable about the last production from Curtain Call – UWA’s musical theatre society – I had no idea quite what to expect when I trotted round to the Morlan Centre to see this far-fabled tale of social mobility and man-eating greenery.

However, by the time I staggered out into the late evening twilight, I had been shaken to my bile-laden, cynical core by the professionalism, drive, energy and all round fabulosity of what was, on paper, a student production realised by a first-time director, but which was, in fact, one of the most entertaining evenings of theatre I’ve had in a long time.

Lucy French and Ed Parry’s set was richly commendable – an upper tier comprising Mushnik’s florist’s was juxtaposed with a lower rostrum for the Skid Row alleyway. Constructed and dressed to a high level of professionalism, my only minor concern was that, in the shop set, there was almost too little space for the actors, particularly when the infamous plant is reaching maturity.

Tom Reilly’s lighting design was eminently suitable, and sound was also well-balanced, with the small exception of one or two radio mic issues.

Helen Park has once again excelled herself in the wardrobe department, producing an array of costumes from the dazzling to the dilapidated and everything in between – all of them more than suited to their purpose.

Performances were musically supported by a very talented band under the direction of pianist Robert J Southworth. Steve Humpherson on drums, Kevin Bales on bass guitar and Georgina Leggate on sax gave of their all and turned in a performance which, to my somewhat trained ear, was very nearly flawless.

Performances from the actors were altogether wonderful, and filled with drive, verve and infectious enthusiasm. There’s not enough time to go into every performance, or even to give some of the lengthier personal mentions I occasionally indulge in, but some key performances bear some close reference, though it should be noted that vocal coach Craig Miller and choreographers Lauren Ricketts and Sam Thomas were in no way let down by anyone.

The misanthropic proprietor of the florist’s shop – Mushnik – was expertly rendered by seasoned Curtain Caller Grae Westgate, whose performance was never less than entertaining, and often laugh-out-loud funny, particularly in an unforgettable duet with Hugh Edwards’s Seymour.

This, I should add, was a Seymour par excellence – Edwards giving Aberystwyth a swansong not to be forgotten with a performance of the hapless experimental botanist and love-lorn orphan that was heart-warming, hilarious and musically sound, even if aesthetically it bordered on the very worst excesses of geek chic!
His love-interest – the ditzy, downtrodden Audrey – was played with distinct panache by the sublime Gemma Rook, who successfully navigated the right side of the thin line between cute and cutesy and gave us a truly magnificent performance.

The redoubtable Alex Wadham, meantime, was back on top form with a briefish, but highly memorable outing as Orin Scrivello DDS, the crazed, sadistic dentist who falls prey to the desires of a certain plant. Mixing great musicality with a tremendous physical and spoken presence, Wadham has once more proved himself.

Principal support came via the Ronnettes – those low-down yet oddly elegant girls from Skid Row who seem to be a near-constant presence throughout. Delyth Owen’s Ronnette and Katy Tosh’s Chiffon were very fine, richly talented performances, but it was the powerful, luxurious voice of Leila Moore as Crystal that will stay with me for a very long time, which is not to derogate at all from the collective talent of the trio.

The other supporting cast members gave the show everything the had and their abilities and dedication never even came close to being questionable.

Of course, special mention must be made of the fearsome man-eating plant Audrey II. In her mature forms, she was quite a spectacle. Expertly operated by Luke Durham, with Sam Keogh operating not only the baby Audrey II, but also a terrifyingly active tongue in her later appearances, the crowning glory was given by Alan Mehdizadeh, whose powerful voice gives Audrey II the relentless, yet strangely soulful vocal quality required of the part.

I went to review another musical this week – ‘Contender’. It had a bigger stage, better acoustics, more lights, more sound, more musicians and a star-studded cast, but Adam Lacey, director of Little Shop, should be proud because, in my opinions at least, he managed, with a first-time directorial effort, to not only steer a good show into harbour, but to knock seven bells out of Michael Bogdanov while he did it.

Welsh theatre had better watch out – Curtain Call has tasted success, and now it’s hungry for more!

Reviewed by: Paddy Cooper

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