Anything that begins with narration by Lee Lin Chin and ends with world domination by a sassy, flesh-eating alien plant is booked as a good time in my opinion.
Little Shop of Horrors began as a black comedy, shot over two days with the leftover set from another film. Released in 1960, it quickly became a cult classic and was later developed into an eighties musical by the famous duo, Alan Menken and Howard Ashan to find even greater success on stage. This August, director Dean Bryant revives the story in an Australian production, succeeding in capturing the oddball charm and gusto of the original.
Set in a rundown flower shop in downtown Los Angeles, clumsy shop assistant Seymour (Brent Hill) rescues the store from the brink of bankruptcy with a strange and interesting plant. He names it ‘Audrey’ after his ditsy but beautiful co-worker (Esther Hannaford). Despite his meticulous care, the plant refuses to grow until he feeds it his own blood – which he does, in copious amounts. As Audrey II’s fame and appetite grows, so does the success of Seymour and the shop. Ultimately however, he must decide if it is all worth the literal blood price.
With a small cast of less than ten actors, this impeccable stage remake has created a show with a level of cohesion and unity that larger groups often struggle with. Comedic timing in every scene was flawless, with the three sassy and sexy chorus girls (Angelique Cassimatis, Josie Lane and Chloe Zuel) demanding attention with each carefully choreographed head toss. Mr Mushnik (Tyler Coppin) was brought to life in “Musnik and Son”, and the character of Orin Scrivello (Scott Johnson) reminded audiences why we all fear that annual trip to the dentist.
The puppet design and construction by Erth Visual and Physical Inc was wonderfully creative. Audrey II grew from a handheld puppet that could easily be danced with, through to a monstrosity that took up more than half of the flower shop set. The largest puppet was even capable of swallowing actors whole, with a mouth that opened upward and outwards, complete with fangs and moving hanging roots. Even more impressive was Audrey II’s voice – an accurate rendition of the 1986 musical performed by Brent Hill, as he maintained Seymour’s boyish, uncertain character.
The only mildly disappointing aspect was the missing villainous rock ballad from the original, “Mean Green Mother From Outer Space”. To be honest however, I didn’t realise it was gone until I ran through the movie soundtrack the following day. Besides, its absence was completely made up for by the chemistry between Hill and Hannaford in the soulful love duet “Suddenly, Seymour”, and Hannaford’s emotional rendition of “Somewhere That’s Green”.
Aesthetics and acting plaudits aside, Little Shop of Horrors brings up great moral quandaries for the audience too. For example: should you kill your crush’s sadistic and abusive boyfriend and feed him to your alien plant? Some things, it seems, can only be answered by Art…
A little bit creepy, well-choreographed, and very witty, this is definitely worth seeing for the brief time it’s showing in Perth. If you’re a fan of rock music and extra-terrestrial threats to our planet, or still harbour a strong feeling of mistrust towards your dentist, Little Shop of Horrors is well worth a ticket.
Words by Sophie Harwood
Little Shop of Horrors shows at His Majesty’s Theatre until August 14.