Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, London – until 22 September 2018
There are a handful of shows that defy all logic and reasoning to become cult classics. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s quirky little Off-Broadway schlock eco-monster musical Little Shop Of Horrors is a crowd pleaser that has grown like topsy since first sprouting on stage 36 years ago.
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre finishes its summer season with an outrageously kitsch and eccentric production of the show that will leave you singing its infectious title song all the way home. It’s got one of the most jaw-dropping, over-the-top, finales that I’ve seen in a long time. I don’t know what costume designer Tom Scutt and director Maria Aberg were sniffing before designing this totally bonkers climax but it must have been pretty hallucinogenic.
There are some stand-out performances in this oddball show which make it a memorable midsummer treat. Marc Antolin, so brilliant in Emma Rice’s quirky Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, endorses his credentials as a romantic misfit with a terrific turn as Seymour, the green-fingered horticulturist who nurtures ‘a strange and interesting new plant’.
Former Busted singer Matt Willis is outstanding as the gas-snorting, sadistic dentist, Orin, who enjoys violent sex games with his cute girlfriend, Audrey. It’s a gloriously outlandish performance that is further bolstered by a series of quick-change weirdo cameos of shysters wanting to get their hands on Seymour’s money-making, bloodthirsty, alien plant, Audrey II.
And Aberg is inspired for casting outsized American drag queen, Vicky Vox, as the adult plant.
In full make-up and spangles, huge bouffant hair a rainbow of colours, she outshines the entire company as the ever-hungry man-eater who scratches her lady garden with a mini rake.
Little Shop’s comic book capers originally appeared in a 1960 low-budget Roger Corman film but it inspired Ashman to create a stage version.
Set in a grey and tumbledown Skid Row, orphaned Seymour, a bespectacled, shy and nerdy shop assistant, works for florist Mr Mushnik.
But business is bad and not likely to last. In a last throw of the dice, assistant, Audrey, encourages Mr Mushnik, to use Seymour’s horticultural experiment, now named the Audrey II, to drum up trade.
Before long the place is buzzing. But there’s one major problem. Seymour discovers that Audrey II needs fresh human blood to survive.
Poor Seymour gives as much as he can but soon he is forced to look for fresh meat.
Jemima Rooper makes a perfectly gorgeous Audrey, a dumb blonde who longs for the American Dream, although her singing isn’t consistent.
There again, neither is Forbes Masson’s singing voice, as Mr Musnik, but both get away with it in this exuberant production.
Seyi Omooba, Christina Modestou and Renee Lamb, give great doo-wop support as the local singing group who eventually end up tucking into popcorn and watching the climax unfold just like the rest of us.
Scutt’s drab, gray, urban skyline gives way to green as the story progresses, until a riot of colour explodes on stage for the crazy climax.
Corman would have loved every minute of this lunatic, terrifically entertaining revival.
It’s a shame that the ensemble have so little to do. Most of the time they’re working as scene shifters which seems a waste of their talent.
The snug performance space on stage also leaves little room for choreography but the director makes good use of the whole auditorium.
This botantocal bloodfest isn’t for the faint-hearted. There’s a particularly gruesome moment that you may want to shut your eyes for.
Little Shop Of Horrors runs at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until September 22..
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