Till rings up wholesale pleasure

Little Shop of Horrors

Birmingham Rep

*****

THIS is a lip-smackingly good production of the famous musical in which a blood-crazed super plant breaths life into a dying florists shop on Skid Row, but enjoys humans for lunch.

I've seen the show many times in the past, but never enjoyed it quite as much. It is performed on a splendid set which smoothly transforms from the tatty street scene outside, to the interior of Mr Mushnik's shop, with the band perched high above.

And what a cast! Not only can they act, sing and dance, but they also play any of the instruments.

Shirley Darroch, for instance, gives a cracking performance as shop assistant Audrey, but frequently nips up a flight of stairs backstage to give a hugely impressive contribution on the trumpet. Once after being beaten up by her sadistic dentist boyfriend. And the others are multi-talented, too.

It is a memorable start to the Rep's last autumn and winter season in the current theatre before moving out for two years to enable development work to take place on the site.

TOTAL ECLIPSE

Based on the hit 1986 film, the story tells how geeky florists' shop worker Seymour Krelborn stumbles on a strange and exotic new plant during a total eclipse of the sun and business blossoms. But when Seymour - impressively played by James Haggie - discovers that his find needs human blood to survive, there's danger ahead.

He names the blood-thirsty green plant Audrey II after the girl he secretly admires, and he has to respond to its demands to "Feed Me" as the monster grows from teapot size to a toothy whopper capable of gulping down a human with one burp.

Former Birmingham School of Acting student Shirley Darroch is a joy as the shapely blonde Audrey, and there is an amusing performance from Sean Kingsley, playing the gas-addicted dentist Orin who loves to inflict pain, often on his own girlfriend.

Harry Myers is the hard-up shopkeeper, Mushnik, and there is enjoyable singing from Raquel Jones (Chiffon),  Tania Mathurin (Crystal) and Emi Wokoma (Ronnette).

And let's not forget the deep and menacing voice of Audrey II - Gavin Cornwall. He is superb, receiving a huge ovation at the finale when he emerges on stage to end the show with a brilliant song. What a voice!

Full marks to Puppeteer Brian Herring for making the plant seem, well, almost human, and Peter Howe's direction is excellent. Musical director is Ben Goddard.

The Little Shop of Horrors runs to September 18. Visit your dentist before, rather than after, seeing the show. To 18.09.10

Paul Marston 

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