Another success for the Heanor Musical Theatre Company with their latest production of Alan Menken’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors’. The Rock and Roll doo-wop musical was adapted from the 1960’s film of the same name and brought to life on stage at Mansfield Palace Theatre with a quirky nod to the B-movie genre the script routinely parodies.
The story tells of a failing flower shop on Skid Row owned by Mr Mushnik (Ben Riley). After an eclipse a Strange and Interesting Plant is purchased by Mushnik’s apprentice turned adopted son Seymour (Jack Readyhoof) which plunges the shop into notoriety. The love story of the show falls between the Seymour and his simple colleague Audrey (Megan Hill), however she is already in a relationship with a less than pleasant Dentist (Robert Scott-Marchall). Like all great B-movies, the Strange and Interesting Plant had indeed come from outer space with a taste for human blood, the plants name… Audrey II (Keenan Jones).
Once again the beauty of live theatre rears its head as the director and creative team behind the show really pulled out all stops to make this a night to remember, without trying to be a carbon copy of the versions before them. The ‘Theatre Vision’ projections and all graphics for the show (including promotional) were incredible and made the show feel fresh, technology in the theatre can so often be a curse, but with this show really helped to tell the story. Further more to see a small scale production opt for a live band over pre-recorded material really adds to the liveness of the theatre experience, if one were to pull a criticism it would be that the splashing and crashing of the drum symbols did overpower the other instruments and quite often pulled focus away from the vocals - so some of the more up tempo songs were washed of the amazing range of singers.
On the note of amazing singers, the trio of urchin’s knocked the ball not only out of the park, but far far beyond. Sarah Bright, Alana Moran and Katy Gaskin did a super job of tying the show together with their musical narration and belting vocal and choreography - it needs to be said how much power, sas and show(wo)manship this trio possesses.
Furthermore in previous productions I’ve seen of Little Shop of Horrors, the character of Audrey is often voiced as heard in the film by Ellen Greene, a very common and squeaky New York impersonation, which then finds itself falling flat during the well loved ballad ‘Somewhere That’s Green’. Luckily this production did not fall into this trap as Megan Hill managed to balance the recognisable character with her own version of the personality without compromising on her incredible vocals.
There’s an old adage in showbiz, which is don’t work with Animals or Children, for me I would add the third category of puppets! Having worked with puppets previously (including a production of Little Shop of Horrors), I know how difficult it is to make these inanimate objects… well… animate! Whilst there were a few cases of Audrey II’s mouth not syncing perfectly with the voice, you can forgive this when you consider the sheer size and weight of the mechanical structure - it didn’t take anything away from the performance or staging at all. My take away moment of the show was Jack Readyhoof carrying the second puppet of Audrey II, during the song he hit every comedy beat with perfect timing with a prize winning performance.
Overall the show was hugely entertaining, each performer sold their character to the best of their abilities. Once again I must say I take my hat off to the creative and technology teams behind this show who put so much effort into the visuals of the show, which I will remember for quite some time. One more thing, never to forget... DON'T FEED THE PLANT.
Little Shop of Horrors was performed at the Mansfield Palace Theatre on the 27th to 29th of April 2023. I cannot see what the group does next!