THE musical Little Shop of Horrors has been popular in high schools, so it’s not surprising that two of the cast members of a new WEA Hunter production so enjoyed playing in school stagings that they auditioned for this show.
The musical, opening at the WEA’s CAS (Creative Arts Space) Theatre, in Hamilton, on November 16, is based on a low budget 1960 black comedy film of the same name, which was such a hit that renowned musical creative team, composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman, converted it to a stage event in 1982. Menken used music styles of the early 1960s, including rock and roll, doo-wop and Motown, and some of its songs – Skid Row (Downtown), Somewhere That’s Green, Suddenly, Seymour, and the title number – continue to be used in concerts.
The story is set in and around a rundown flower shop in an urban street called Skid Row. Because few people are buying plants, the shop’s cranky owner, Mr Mushnik (played by Mike Peters), is considering closing it, much to the concern of his two employees, Seymour Krelborn (Zac Smith), a poor orphan Mr Mushnik hired because he wouldn’t have to pay him much, and Audrey (Amy Vee), a dizzy blonde who repeatedly arrives at work with injuries such as a black eye, caused by her abusive dentist boyfriend, Orin Scrivello (Luke Carroll).
Things take a turn for the better when Seymour picks up an unusual and brightly coloured floral plant which suddenly appears beside him during an eclipse. And when Seymour puts the plant, which he calls Audrey II because of his concealed affection for his co-worker, in the shop window it leads to many people coming inside to admire it and buying other flowers. When Audrey II stops growing and seems to be dying, Seymour finds when he pricks his finger and drops blood on the plant that blood makes Audrey II bloom and be more colourful. So he has to find a way of giving the plant a daily dose of blood.
Little Shop of Horrors was written for staging in intimate venues and has a small cast. This staging has Grace Hughes, Emma Sutton and Kacie Bourke as three homeless girls who comment on the action, Tom Hamilton as the voice of Audrey II, and Kiani Sansom as a puppeteer who has to provide Audrey II’s movements as her blood diet leads her to constantly grow in size. The show is directed by PJ Willis, who was the vocal director of a 2015 staging by Pantseat Productions.
Little Shop of Horrors has a 7.30pm show on November 16, 1.30pm and 7.30pm shows on November 17, then 7.30pm shows on November 21, November 23, and November 24, plus a 1.30pm Saturday matinee. Bookings: trybooking.com.
AS the title indicates, this show looks at people’s experiences in their workplace. And, like the film it is based on, the story is set in the late 1970s, when female office workers frequently found themselves abused or ignored when they offered their views on issues. It was very much a man’s world.
Dolly Parton, who wrote the film’s title song and played one of the three main women characters, put together 17 more and very diverse songs for this stage adaptation. Sadly, as bright as the songs are and so well delivered by this production’s large cast, it comes across as a Dolly Parton concert. The issues the office workers and family members have to deal with are restricted to short scenes between the songs, and the characters are decidedly two-dimensional.
Still, the script’s weakness highlights the quality of the performers, as they deliver their brief verbal encounters under Drew Pittman’s direction. Emily Price brings out the frustrations of a senior female employee, Violet, who is invariably ignored when the large international firm’s male bosses have to choose someone for a key role. Megan Connelly, as Doralee, the secretary of a company manager, Franklin Hart Jr (Jason King) shows her concern when he makes lusting moves towards her. And King, whose character is one of the story’s most bland men, constantly raises smiles when he reacts to getting what he deserves.
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