I’m in what is probably a significant minority of people who have never seen either of the Little Shop of Horrors movies. The only thing I knew for certain when I arrived at the Belgrade Theatre was that apparently ‘feeding the plant’ was a bad idea – this production, true to the film’s original ending, certainly showed the price of feeding the plant.
Within seconds of the show’s beginning, the audience was firmly rooted (pun intended) in the late 1950s; we were shown the hardship of life for everyday folk on Skid Row, the lack of secure income and the impossibility of ever breaking out of such a desperate life. The opening of the musical effectively sets up the justification for Seymour’s (Sam Lupton) actions as he cultivates the carnivorous plant, Audrey II (Josh Wilmott).
This production, true to the film’s original ending, certainly showed the price of feeding the plant.
I’ll pause from the story for a moment to talk about the most publicised element of the show now: Rhydian. That’s right, Rhydian, from the 2007 cohort of X Factor contenders. His role as the Dentist, amongst other cameos in this production, proved that his true calling has always been musical theatre. His presence on stage managed to dominate without overpowering any of the other performers; his voice was malleable beyond belief; and (spoiler alert) his character’s death scene managed to be hilariously farcical without straying into corniness.
Despite the press attention given to Rhydian, though, a lot of credit is due to the rest of the cast. The lead characters of Seymour and Audrey (Stephanie Clift) are wonderfully performed by young, talented actors, with fantastically flirtatious chemistry which managed to retain a comedic level of awkwardness.
Rhydian’s role as the Dentist, amongst other cameos in this production, proved that his true calling has always been musical theatre
My only criticism of the production would be of the projected images used during Audrey’s solo, ‘Somewhere That’s Green’. To me, the cartoon projections cheapened the idealism of the song, which talks about the impossible desire to escape Skid Row (and by association, poverty and abuse) by taking up the much-craved American suburban lifestyle of the late 1950s. Clift’s vocals were astounding in this song and, in my mind, would have been even more impressive without the cartoonish distractions on the screen behind her.
The success of this story always amazes me. I can’t imagine the initial pitch: “I’ve got a great idea for a musical which has a carnivorous plant in a leading role, a plant who wants to eat the cast of the play and eventually take over the world”. To me, the plant is a metaphor for capitalism; no matter how much you feed it for its promise of wealth, fame and success, you will never sate it, and will eventually be consumed. Maybe I’m right; maybe it’s just about a plant. Either way, I’m glad that somebody zany enough decided to run with the idea, because it’s left us with a clever, wonderful, and very funny piece of theatre. Kudos to Sell a Door Theatre Company for pulling it off, and doing a magnificent job.