Little Shop of HorrorsOscar Yang

When it comes to picking the ideal show for the week of Halloween and Guy Fawkes night, the ADC couldn’t have done better than this comedy horror musical. Blood, death, sadism and flowers: all set to stonkingly good music and delivered by a fabulously talented and energetic cast. Little Shop of Horrors mostly delivers what it promises, and under the confident direction of Rebecca Vaa it adds some surprises to set it apart from other productions of this cult piece.

The cast is wonderfully strong, delivering the singing, the dancing and the comedy with slickness and precision. At the centre of the show is Adam Mirsky as the loner Seymour. Adam claims to have never sung in a show before, but he is a natural performer with a charming and understated delivery. His voice is strong, and his delivery is fun. He resists being over-geeky, and his ‘Grow for me’ is a tenderly sung love song just the right edge of oddness.  

Also avoiding stereotypes is the utterly professional Olivia Gaunt, who gives us a refreshingly original take on Audrey. This is a show which relies on having powerful female lead with impressive skill in comic acting and the ability to belt out the showtunes – she delivers all of this this, with oodles of charm and talent to spare. Her portrayal of the hapless shop-assistant is hilariously perfect. In ‘Somewhere that’s green’ she gave a masterclass in how to act though a song, and effortlessly win the hearts of the entire audience. These two make a brilliantly awkward couple, and they know how to let the sweetness shine through the physical comedy.

Ben Cisneros is disturbingly convincing as the demon dentist. He has one heck of a voice, and his delivery of ‘Dentist!’ is show-stopping. His talents aren’t limited to vocals though – his hips have a seductive swivel and his teeth an evil sparkle.

The delighted audience reactions of the evening may have been for ‘Mushinck and Son’, where Stanley Thomas, as the ageing shop-owner, takes control of the stage in a sinister paternalistic tango.

The set and lighting design serve the show well: with moving walls, red bricked surrounds extending the stage, and a variety of dead, living and status-unknown plants. The action is bathed in oversaturated cartoon colours, which give way to subtler effects for the more emotional moments. With the complexity of the set there were some first night wobbles, and functionally wider doors could have made the exits and entrances a bit smoother.

The girl-group trio who sweep through the narrative, filling in the details and slyly commenting on the plot, are played with sassy confidence by Holly Musgrave, Clara Van Wel and Sophie Foote.  Their voices blend beautifully, and their harmonies are immaculate. The other character parts are played with relish, and it is wonderful to see even minor roles being cast with performers of such strength. The choreography is snappy and camp: Toby Marlow has rehearsed this group so every click and head flick is like clockwork.

The band is superb throughout. Tucked away above the set, they bring the show to life: with more instruments than I could keep track of. Under the musical direction of Joe Beighton, they blend with the singers and are flawless all evening. The sound balance was mostly spot-on, and in particular the lyrics when singing were never lost behind the strength of the band. However, the microphone cues could have been quicker, and on numerous occasions the first lines of songs were left unamplified, missing out some jokes and plot lines.

No plant shop would be complete without [spoiler alert] a giant monster-plant: and in this production Megan Gilbert provides the sassy belting vocals for the beast. It is a brave move to depart from the usual growling male tones, and this adds a bit of quirkiness to the show. However, getting the plant’s voice and movements to marry up convincingly is never an easy job. Combined with some design flaws and a lack of similar originality in the appearance of the plant, this meant that the central monster struggled to achieve any character of its own. Never reaching the level of autonomous super-villain, it remained a slightly wet vegetable, lacking the power or evil to drive the show forwards. But for such a technically complex show, the only real disappointment is that if you haven’t already got a ticket, it is probably too late. This fabulous cast and band could have deservedly sold out the ADC for a second week.