Are you looking for Christmas entertainment in Brisbane that’s a bit left of centre? How about going somewhere that’s green? The Arts Theatre’s current production of Little Shop of Horrors runs until 21st December and is the perfect tonic for this stressful time of year. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll have ear worms for days after seeing this legendary musical with one of the quirkiest plots in the business.
In a parody of 60s schlock horror films, Little Shop is the story of a downtrodden florist’s assistant – Seymour –whose discovery of an exotic flower suddenly brings him wealth, fame and the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, there’s a high price to pay for this success, and Seymour finds himself caught up in an outlandish deal with the devilish plant, which thrives on a diet of human blood. If you’ve never seen the stage show of Little Shop of Horrors before, you might be familiar with the 1986 film version that had an all star cast including Rick Moranis and Steve Martin. The stage version has most of the same infectious songs as the film, but the ending is a little less ‘Hollywood’, with the characters learning twisted moral lessons about being careful what you wish for!
I was wary of seeing such a ‘big’ play in the intimate space of the Arts Theatre; I thought it would necessarily be overwhelming, or too understated – but it actually works beautifully! The set design cleverly makes the most of the smallish stage area, converting from inside the ill fated floristry store to the mean streets of Skid Row as necessary. Powerful singing voices are enhanced by a live band playing in the wings, which makes the whole show loud and proud in a thoroughly engaging way. There’s a lot of talent onstage, but the standout for me was Lauren Ware as the fragile Audrey – Seymour’s paramour with a past. Teetering around with high heels and low self esteem, Audrey is a character who could easily be portrayed as just a ‘dumb broad’. In this production, though, Ware creates an Audrey who is subtle and street wise, even if she does have appalling taste in men. Her power ballads are delivered with so much passion they actually brought a tear to my eye – which is saying something in a ridiculous musical about man-eating greenery.
This whole production is lively and energetic, but the success of any production of Little Shop, as far as audience expectations go, probably rides on the two most famous elements – the plant and the dentist. The plant puppetry in this case is clever and convincing. I found myself aware of the puppeteer’s hand
when the first few smaller Audrey 2’s arrived on stage, but by the time it had grown into the mean, green mother of the second act, my disbelief was totally suspended and the plant was well and truly a performer in its own right!
And what can you say about the dentist? The obnoxious Orin gets his kicks from nitrous oxide and misogyny. He’s one of the all time great musical villains without a single sympathetic quality. His demise in this production is sinister and protracted. Actor Kieran Davey’s dental chair death throes left me squirming with the discomfort of wanting to laugh at something so dark, which is just as it should be in a comedy horror performance.
There are plenty of laughs, one or two gasps and lots of catchy tunes to be found down on Skid Row in this high voltage production. Highly recommended by this Charming Mum!
Little Shop Of Horrors runs until 21st December at The Arts Theatre, Brisbane. See http://www.artstheatre.com.au/littleshop for details.
I was lucky enough to get a complimentary ticket to this performance, but all opinions are, as always, my own.
And here’s a little taster from the film….