Northampton’s White Cobra present the classic B-movie musical on The Deco stage until 17 November.
Howard Ashman and Alan Menken are probably best known for their involvement with Disney, being the team behind the classic animations such as Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. They applied their talents too to Little Shop of Horrors, a musical remake of a 1960s film of the same title featuring a young Jack Nicholson as the Dentist.
The result is a classic B-movie script interspersed with catchy songs and comic characters. Oh, and a giant plant with a serious case of blood lust.
Mushnik’s flower shop in the run down Skid Row is on the brink of closure, until Seymour presents his new and “unusual” plant – Audrey II. Suddenly, it seems Seymour’s luck changes and the shop is saved, and it even looks like he might get the girl of his dreams… but at what cost?
Little Shop is a change in direction for White Cobra, as the Northamptonshire based group are more associated with straight plays. They most recently performed Peter Quilter’s “Duets” at The Playhouse Theatre, and will return to The Deco next May with “The Graduate”, so Musical Theatre on a grander scale feels like somewhat of a new venture.
The Deco is not an easy space to fill, but the larger than life performances from the whole cast truly lit up the stage. Ben Stanton‘s Seymour is everything you could want for in Little Shop‘s anti-hero; he’s adorably dorky, filling his performance with quirky little nuances and facial expressions that really bring Seymour to life, not to mention bringing an outstanding vocal performance. Hannah Taylor too, as Audrey, is simply wonderful – there’s enough of a hint of Ellen Green’s iconic take on the character to make her familiar, but Taylor doesn’t resort to an “impression”, instead absolutely making Audrey her own.
Fraser Haines tackles Skid Row flowershop owner, Mushnik (a role he played for Masque Theatre 6 years ago) and appears to be having the time of his life doing so – “Mushnik and Son” being his stand out number – he excels in both the light and dark moments throughout the show. Richard Jordan as sadistic dentist Orin shone in the dental office scene during “Now (It’s Just The Gas)”, although perhaps more could have been made of his aggression towards Audrey to really hammer home just how vile the character of the dentist truly is.
Little Shop of Horrors, Review
Vocals from the trio of Chiffon (Victoria Miles), Crystal (Vicky Kelly) and Ronnette (Ashleigh Hammond) were fantastic, although the casting did feel a little wrong here – less “sassy street urchins”, more “gossipy neighbours” which meant some of the lines felt rather out of place. They did play the roles with a great deal of energy however, and seemed to grow in confidence and presence as the performance went on.
Audrey II, it seems, is a two man job – with Aaron MacKenzie having the unenviable task of controlling the ever increasing sized puppet, and Brett Hanson providing soulful vocals.
The ensemble (Barry Dougall, Laura Horne, Mo Shapiro and Bernadette Wood) stepped up to help fill The Deco’s vacuous stage, being particularly impressive during “Skid Row”.
The show, sadly, was dogged with technical issues, which did detract somewhat from the performances. In a highly technical show like this at this level, issues are going to occur, but the problems with sound levels and mics not being turned on or off promptly made parts of the production inaudible. The lighting too seemed sporadic, with spots not on performers, strobes stuck flashing and lights bouncing off the shop windows making bits of the show difficult to see clearly. And while action taking place in front of the curtain is a necessary evil in shows with complicated scene changes (not to mention giant props to wrangle), there seemed to be a great deal of time spent out there on the front of The Deco’s thrust stage, which considering how beautiful the shop set was, was a shame.
A production that was well performed by an incredibly hard working cast, but sadly let down by the technical problems. Fingers crossed the tech improves as the run continues, as the show could truly be a delight to watch.
Performance: Wed 14 Nov 2018, The Deco, Northampton
Becki is a theatre lover originally from Birmingham. She founded On Stage Northants in 2017, and is passionate about promoting Northampton performing arts. She also works for Royal & Derngate as Marketing and Press Assistant. Can usually be found behind the scenes, and occasionally in front of them too. Becki also blogs at StageyRebel