Little Shop of Horrors | National Tour | Review

Little Shop of Horrors

Theatre Royal Windsor

until 22nd June 2024

Director : Lotte Wakeham
Musical Director : Gabrielle Ball

In partnership with New Wolsey Theatre, Bolton, Octagon Theatre, Theatre By The Lake, Hull and Truck Theatre

Little Shop of Horrors first appeared on screen in Roger Corman’s 1960 horror-comedy film. It was then transferred to Off-Broadway in 1982, and the hit, ‘cult-classic’ 1986 film starring Ellen Greene as Audrey and Rick Moranis as Seymour Krelborn, cemented the musical as a firm favourite for years to come. Little Shop of Horrors follows Seymour as he finds himself caring for a carnivorous plant, whilst falling head over heels for his work colleague, the kind but mistreated, Audrey.

The Theatre Royal Windsor is currently home to Lotte Wakeham’s new production, which has been on tour since March. This production keeps many of the familiar aspects of the show, as seen in the numerous adaptations across the world, but this version has the unique incorporation of actor-musicians. The show opens with this new addition made clear; the ‘Greek Chorus’ girls, made up of Chiffon (Janna May), Crystal (Zweyla Mitchell Dos Santos) and Ronnette (Chardai Shaw), each play their own instrument as they perform the prologue, introducing us to the dark events we are about to witness. There was something incredibly joyful in watching these actors take pride in creating the music themselves, and I felt this addition worked well, most of the time. Only sometimes did it feel that the instruments distracted the performers, affecting their acting as a result. However, the music really is the star of the show, composed originally by Alan Menken and musically directed in this production by Gabrielle Ball. Each number is unique and dynamic, adopting different genres, tempos and harmonies.

The cast, on the whole, were wonderful. Laura Jane Matthewson, as Audrey, was a delight to watch from start to finish and whilst, at times, I found her reactions to events perhaps a little pre-empted, she gave Audrey the perfect amount of desperation and kindness that made you, as an audience, root for her. Matthewson’s voice is spectacular; not a huge, belting approach to the songs but softer and much more controlled, which I found more effective and moving in portraying Audrey. Oliver Mawdsley as Seymour is also a star; his goofiness, awkwardness and pure love for Audrey were portrayed so well, and his vocals were crisp, clear and delightful throughout. Other mentions must go to Anton Stephans as the voice of Audrey II, who was brilliant despite not being visible for most of the show and Matthew Ganley, who was great as the sadistic dentist, Orin; although his vocals were lovely and the dynamic between him and the sweet, loving Seymour, made for wonderful, tense scenes together, I felt he lacked menace at times. Unfortunately, I did feel that the ‘Greek Chorus’ could have been stronger. Their harmonies were brilliant and they brought a lot of good energy to the stage, but their acting was not as natural as other performers, which led to slightly stilted moments on stage.

TK Hay’s set is great; small but mighty and innovative in creating ‘Skid Row’, and Mushnik’s shop was decorated with so many little details to create a fully-fleshed space. The lights, designed by Nic Farman, were used very well throughout the show, especially in Mushnik’s (portrayed by Andrew Whitehead) accusation scene, where he is illuminated in a dark red to signify the doubts in his mind.

The puppets of Audrey II, designed by Michael Fowkes, were ingenious. The plant genuinely seemed alive; huffing when Seymour didn’t feed it blood and laughing manically when it made full use of its power. Parts of the puppet did look like fabric and didn’t move as freely as perhaps could have been explored, but I am also aware that in the theatre, we are supposed to transcend reality! Movement also deserves a mention and Sundeep Sani’s choreography was simple, yet so effective, elevating songs and bringing each a new energy to keep the audience focused and engaged.

Although the tension on stage was a little low at times, despite the fact there was a man-eating, talking plant on stage, and the narrative was a little messy, this production is very well done. And as the audience got to their feet for the final number, cheering and applauding, smiles galore, the actors gave their all as they reminded us one last time of the one very important message, “Don’t Feed the Plants”.

Little Shop of Horrors, in association with New Wolsey Theatre, Bolton, Octagon Theatre, Theatre By The Lake, Hull and Truck Theatre, is performing at the Theatre Royal Windsor from the 18th – 22nd June.

Reviewer: Lily Sitzia

Photo: Pamela Raith