Starting off at the Menier Chocolate Factory and transferring to the West End at the Duke of York’s, Little Shop of Horrors now has its third home in London at the Ambassadors and I have finally gotten round to seeing it. And boy am I glad that I did.
It is a very sweetly composed story, straddling that not-so-well-trodden boundary between sci-fi and romance. Seymour, a down-on-his-luck orphan just scraping by in grim urban Skid Row, finds a special plant which happens to appear during a solar eclipse and suddenly everything in his life starts to improve. The flower shop where he works becomes more successful, he sees a way to rescue the girl he loves from afar from a violent relationship, but as always, there’s a downside to all of this and in this case, it is that the plant is a living, carnivorous one with a particular yen for human blood.
As I said, I didn’t get round to seeing this show in its previous venues since I wasn’t sure that it would be as good as I wanted it to be in my head as I do know the story rather well, having been involved in a high school production and I really do love the film (of the musical, that is). But fortunately, I was not disappointed by this production at all as the strong voices of Katie Kerr, Melitsa Nicola and Jenny Fitzpatrick as the doo-wop girl chorus kicked in with the title song and their energy lifted us through the show with great verve.
Above all it is a funny show, mixing in real comedy in both the book and the lyrics with genuine pathos in the grim surroundings and domestic violence in Skid Row, with a great energy, a surprising ending and crucially for any musical, excellent songs from Alan Menken. They cover the aforementioned doo-wop of the girl group chorus and Motown, bluesy romps, rock’n’roll numbers and simple heartfelt ballads.
Sheridan Smith captured the genuine humanity behind Audrey, elevating her from a caricature to a real woman with feelings and a heart she’s so careful to protect. Her singing voice is lovely too and often heart-breakingly sincere, especially in her dreams of a better life. Paul Keating’s Seymour is nicely earnest, playing the transformation from nerd to whiz-kid well and Alistair McGowan’s dentist is well performed too, getting the sadistic laughs in but not overpoweringly so and I love the fact he’s not too showy to cover lots of little roles in the second act too.
So a fun night out, although possibly not quite up to the standard of my old high school production, hehe!!