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Thursday, March 29

Little Shop, Little Shop Of Horrors

Going to see a favourite musical can be an enthralling experience, or it can be soul-destroying. To see something you love butchered would be bad.

Added to the risk of not enjoying the show last night for its interpretation, was the fact that I was ill, tired and feeling slightly stressed, having calculated the risk of becoming quite poor in the next 6 months - it's a good risk to calculate... until the harsh reality of it hits you.

Anyway, from the first entry into the theatre, the show looked like it would deliver. The set was open to the audience and it looked like Skid Row on there, even though it was a new set. This is the secret to a new production - make it fresh, but give it the character of the original.

When the show got going, it was clear that this was going to be a great production. The three chorus girls, who appear throughout the show like the chorus of a Greek tragedy (I read that somewhere and agreed with it), were very very funny in the opening song. The opening song isn't meant to be funny - it's not meant to be serious. It's just witty. It was laugh out loud funny.

When Sheridan Smith took to the stage as Audrey, I had my doubts. Would she be Ellen Greene? Would she be simpering, rather than squeaky, like the Broadway version? Would she be ridiculous? Or would she be believable AND ridiculous? She was absolutely stunning. We both laughed at her and allowed ourselves to love her and feel for her. Although perhaps you'd have to work hard to beat Ellen Greene's definitive Audrey, I think Sheridan Smith was something very very special.

One of the songs I always found quite touching was "Somewhere That's Green" - in this version, it's played funny until the most wistful verse, then it's wistful in spades. A still hits the room, the audience suddenly understand why Audrey is that most tragic of characters. It's beautiful.

Later in the show, when Seymour and Audrey get together, in the song "Suddenly Seymour", the full pomp of the number is played for laughs, which is probably for the best, since it's a feel good song which does get ridiculous in its writing. You have Sheridan Smith belting her heart out on one side of the stage, sassier than a girl from Chicago, and Seymour on the other doing pratfalls. It bloody works.

Mike McShane as the plant - initially I wondered whether a white man could do the plant. He has such a splendid vocal range that my fears were allayed.

Alistair MacGowan as the dentist (and the cast of "The Meek Shall Inherit") was, for the main, doing an impression of Steve Martin doing the role. But he knows how to perform comedy, and was so physical and so well timed in his execution, that he still made the part his own (even if he was, perhaps doing an impersonation of the dentist).

The whole thing was a delight.

The plant was distinctive and even had some funny movements. Perhaps the plant can steal the show, though this one didn't. It held its own in a strong cast in a strong production.

The only slight disappointment came from the musical direction. On the one hand, they appear to have learned from some of the changes that were added to the Broadway production, but only picked and chosen those which were less cheesy. Not every song deserves the sledgehammer ending that Broadway added. However, on the down side, the musical ensemble was a little thin in numbers. As a result, they missed the opportunity for a fatter sound where it may have contributed well to the mood. Having said that, this musical was written for small-scale productions and perhaps too big a band would have overfaced what was, intentionally, a more intimate version of the show.

I left the theatre in awe and delight.

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