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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Little Shop of Horrors
Menier Chocolate Factory Winter 2006-2007; Duke of York's Theatre Spring 2007; Ambassadors Summer 2007

This thoroughly delightful musical comedy is another triumph for the Menier, solidifying its status as one of the leading and most inventive of off-West End theatres.

This is the 1982 musical version of the extremely-low-budget 1960 Roger Corman film about the hapless schnook who discovers a blood-sucking plant that demands larger and larger feedings as it grows, leading to the mysterious disappearances of local folk.

The film itself was more comedy than horror, and the musical sends it all up so high that there is not a scare in sight, just the fun of the absurd plot and characters.

Book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken (the team later behind several Disney films) wrap the silliness in 1950s-style rock'n'roll, with a strong tinge of the Motown sound (As an in-joke, the three street kids who provide backing vocals are named Chiffon, Crystal and Ronette).

The songs are not particularly memorable, but their throw-away quality is thoroughly appropriate to the light-hearted tone of the show.

As is frequently the case, the Menier amazes with the size and sophistication of physical production it can generate on what for a West End musical would be the spare parts budget, and David Farley's clever fold-out set and especially the several ever-larger versions of the voracious plant from Artem Ltd are a major part of the fun.

If I have one small cavil, it is that director Matthew White has shown a bit too much restraint and taste for this joyously trashy show. For me, Paul Keating as the plant-discovering hero is not quite comically hapless enough, Sheridan Smith as the object of his love not quite ditzy enough, Jasper Britton as a sadistic motorcycling dentist ('the leader of the plaque') not quite bizarre enough.

Only Barry James as the flower shop owner reaches quite the level of loving parody I'd like, but he has the advantage of having played the schnook in the first London production two decades ago.

I hasten to say that the rest of the audience didn't share my slight if-only-they-went-a-bit-further disappointment.

As it stands, Little Shop is a great Guilty Pleasure - give yourself over to the silly fun of it, and you'll have a ball.

 
Gerald Berkowitz

 

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Review - Little Shop of Horrors - Menier 2006