Little Shop Of Horrors @ Menier Chocolate Factory , London

cast list
Sheridan Smith
Paul Keating
Barry James
Jasper Britton
Matthew Eames
Katie Kerr
Jenny Fitzpatrick
Corrie Mack
Melitsa Nicola
Mike McShane

directed by
Matthew White
The Menier Chocolate Factory in south London is establishing a reputation for itself as the home of quirky musical theatre with an Off Broadway sensibility. Their new production of Little Shop of Horrors is in a similar vein and though not exactly groundbreaking it makes for some quality kitsch Christmas fun.

Directed by Matthew White, this Howard Ashman and Alan Menken musical has not been seen on a London stage for twenty years. Originally based on Roger Corman’s micro-budget 1960 horror film, it follows the fortunes of Seymour (Paul Keating) an awkward orphan who works in Mushnik’s flower shop. During a solar eclipse, Seymour discovers a rare plant in a market and soon the strange specimen, voiced to perfection by former Whose Line Mike McShane, is causing carnage. At the same time Seymour is desperate to catch the eye of Audrey (the excellent Sheridan Smith), his colleague, who is currently dating ‘semi-sadist’ dentist Orin.

The success of a production like this lies in part with the design of the pivotal plant, Audrey II, and in this case it has been perfectly realized, gradually expanding to fill the stage and eventually the theatre too, and with the help of McShane they manage to invest it with its own vicious personality.

Furthermore, the chemistry between Keating’s Seymour and Sheridan Smith is strong. Smith in particular has a real presence on stage and perfect comic timing. She has that rare ability to make you laugh but also make you cry, her performance of the song Somewhere That’s Green had more than one person in the audience in tears.

They have also assembled a very good chorus, a trio of girls (Katie Kerr, Melitsa Nicola and Jenny Fitzpatrick) who hold the whole piece together. Narrating, commenting and occasionally interfering in the action, they are the audience’s link to this strange world. Kerr in particular is very strong for an actor who has just graduated and is making her professional debut.

There are a clutch of musicals like Little Shop, shows that tap in to a certain kitsch vibe; Rocky Horror comes to mind, as does Forbidden Planet. They’re not great art but they serve a certain purpose, especially when done with this much conviction and enthusiasm. This Little Shop may be terribly cheesy but it’s also tons of fun and the cast work very hard to make this a great, thoroughly entertaining show, the perfect antidote to the stresses of the Christmas season.

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