Little shop

Sam Lupton and Stephanie Clift as Seymour and Audrey - with Audrey II turning over yet another new leaf . . . Pictures: Matt Martin

Little Shop of Horrors

The New Alexandra Theatre

*****

THEATRE can be a cruel mistress. Sometimes you can go to a show awash with five star reviews and it just doesn’t work, the words are there, the songs and score are there, the stars are there; but it just leaves you cold.

Yet other times as soon as you step into the auditorium there is a buzz about the place that lets you know instinctively that you are in for a treat. So it proved with Little shop of Horrors at the Alex.

The tale of a mysterious, not to mention blood thirsty, plant from outer space is one that revels in the ridiculous. Josh Wilmott brings zeal to the role of Audrey II and through the voice and excellently timed puppetry brings a real sense of personality and presence to the show. All of which combines to project a surprising amount of menace to a six-foot something puppet plant. Indeed, as the plant grew, so did the show’s performances.

As the two leads- Sam Lupton and Stephanie Clift were well paired in the central romance and played off each other well, although I must admit to feeling uneasy at a couple of - admittedly well delivered -gags around domestic abuse.

Individually Lupton’s interaction with (and at times subtle puppetry ofRhydian) Audrey II was particularly noteworthy as his demeanour grew more and more psychotic as Seymour. Clift played the ditsy and downtrodden Audrey skilfully and, vocally, was allowed to let loose more after the slightly underwhelming Somewhere That's Green.

In a time when the TV schedules are riddled with reality TV and talent shows, the words “star of…” can often bring about something of a heavy heart, but every now and again you see someone of genuine quality.

So it was with Rhydian Roberts, who gave a performance of comedic range and grace that would have been good with an average voice, but coupled with his excellent set of pipes it was bordering on the sublime.

Rhydian Roberts as dentist Orin Scrivello with Audrey II opening wide

It’s not often you can say that someone hit all the right notes- both vocal and comedic- while performing in a fogged up glass bowl helmet; but he did it with aplomb. His turn as sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello, DDS, was as mesmerising and funny as it was macabre, and his run of quick change cameos in the second half were scene stealers in the very best sense.

He managed to walk the fine line between hamming it up and still giving the part poise, and in truth his scenes seemed to light the touch-paper that galvanised the rest of the cast into raising their own performances.

The trio of Sasha Latoya, Vanessa Fisher and Cassie Clare as Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette respectively all had excellent individual voices but occasionally jarred as a harmony in early numbers, but were nonetheless engaging guides through the production. Paul Kissaun as Mushnik was an able and willing foil to both Lupton and Clift; which was vital in allowing the production to keep its momentum.

The sets were engrossing and cleverly used with some lovely touches, such as the newspaper stand that altered with the plot and the band playing within the music box shop (though I must admit it was my eagle-eyed companion who noticed this) and would no doubt offer more entertaining nuggets should you watch the show again.

There did appear to be some mic balance issues with group numbers, particularly the finale, which was a shame and did leave the ending rather unclear. While this does prevent this from being a 5 * review, it should not take away from what is a hugely enjoyable show which I would highly recommend. To 01-10-16

Christian Clarke

27-09-16 

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