REVIEW: Little Shop of Horrors @ The Palace Theatre, Manchester

little-shop-seymour-audreyLast night’s Halloween performance of Little Shop of Horrors revived the B-movie spirit on stage at The Palace Theatre, Manchester.

Little Shop of Horrors has bounced from screen to stage to screen to stage since the gory story’s first appearance in 1960s B-movie, then bereft of the Motown inspired choruses many of us now could not imagine the show without. It was only after this movie was turned into an off-Broadway musical that it found life as an all singing all dancing sci-fi horror flick in 1986, starring a then unknown Steve Martin and the voice of Levi Stubbs from the Four Tops.

What is essentially a simple love story about a hapless goof, a girl with a ‘past’, and a giant man eating alien plant, found itself back on the stage at Manchester’s Palace Theatre last night. Sell A Door Theatre Company took us back to Skid Row, New York, where life’s ‘a joke’, but the music keeps spirits unusually high, and Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette (played by Sasha Latoya, Venessa Fisher and Cassie Clare) led us through the story with impressive vocals and high energy.

Stephanie Clift delivered a solid performance as the damsel in a tight dress Audrey, melting hearts with her rendition of ‘Somewhere That’s Green’, proving that even the most mundanely suburban dream can look like heaven from Skid Row – especially when expressed in a song by Alan Menken, who would go on to write music for Disney princesses.

lsoh-act-1-rhydianX Factor’s Rydian Roberts’ operatic portrayal of Audrey’s abusive boyfriend and sadistic dentist, Orin, went down well with the audience until his untimely demise in Act I, and was welcomed back in Act II in a number of comedic bit parts.

As expected it was Audrey II that the crowd really went wild for (who couldn’t love a Mean Green Mother from Outta Space?). The ever expanding alien plant was brought to life by puppeteer Josh Wilmott and voiced by Neil Nicholas. The delivery of darkly delightful numbers such as ‘Git It’ and ‘Suppertime’ successfully lightened the mood for any squeamish members of the audience when it came time for the feeding of dismembered dentists to the bloodthirsty botanical.

Though the true horrors present in this show are a little closer to home – domestic abuse, exploitation and hopeless systemic poverty all play out on Skid Row. And whilst the gory exuberance of cast, set and sound do as good a job as the film to place us a comfortable distance away from the real meat of the story, the production managed to, in true B-movie style, provide the audience with a simultaneous sense of merriment and unease as these sinister themes were (literally) danced around.

Runs till Saturday November 5

Alice McAlpine


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