Monday, 8 August 2016

Plant goes viral in Little Shop of Horrors

Perth is the final leg of the national tour for Little Shop of Horrors and the Luckiest/Tinderbox Production’s show is as slick, well-cast and entertaining as we had been promised. Director Dean Bryant dishes up the mix of creepy comedy for which this Ashman/Menken musical is renowned.

Three raunchy chorus girls (Josie Lane, Chloe Zuel, Angelique Cassimatis) introduce us to Skid Row. They dance and twitch with a desperate energy that pervades the show thanks to Andrew Hallsworth’s tightly wound choreography.
Seymour and Audrey II

The drab Mushnik’s Florist is the centrepiece of the set and its manipulative owner Mr Mushnik is Tyler Coppin in fine comic form (although his Czech accent occasionally slips). The shop’s fortunes are turned around when the belittled assistant Seymour discovers an unknown plant species and becomes an overnight media celebrity. Brent Hill’s Seymour is earnest and bumbling but capable of belting out a rocking Grow For Me and melting duets with love interest Audrey. Hill also speaks/sings the booming voice of his plant (named Audrey II) in an act of impressive ventriloquism that also hints at a Freudian subconscious connection between the two.

Esther Hannaford’s petite frame and timidity makes her the perfect Audrey. With her husky French accent and droll timing she is the most winsome comic in the cast, singing with soulful power in numbers like Suddenly Seymour. Audrey’s sadistic dentist boyfriend Orin is played with goofy cruelty by Scott Johnson.

Audrey and Seymour
Owen Phillips’ florist set is initially greyscale but transforms in Act Two into a riot of red. The chorus girls wear tropical frocks with floral hairpieces and tendril jewellery as Audrey II’s influence grows. The centrepiece of the set is the carnivorous plant and its Feed Me demands require Seymour to go to increasingly desperate measures to keep it alive. This is where puppet makers Erth work their gruesome magic. What starts as a pot plant soon grows into a monstrous mouth with fleshy cabbage ears and veined bulbous tentacles, filling the set and requiring the entire cast (behind the scenes) to operate it.


Andrew Worboys directs a powerhouse band in the pit with surging electric guitar solos and throbbing bass providing a ferocious heavy rock accompaniment as Audrey II devours her victims.

It’s the small touches that set this show apart from the clever use of projections to augment the storytelling to the use of SBS broadcaster Lee Lin Chin as narrator. And then there is Audrey II’s psychedelic rock dance party that kicks in after the final bows, prompting an iPhone filming frenzy from audience members. It’s just the #worlddomination kind of reception that Audrey II would’ve been hoping for.

Little Shop of Horrors runs at His Majesty's Theatre until August 14th. Tickets from Ticketek.

This review copyright The West Australian 2016.

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