By Dominique Viney
Sydney University Musical Theatre Ensemble (MUSE) take on a thrilling revival of this classic show Little Shop of Horrors that embodies the themes of greed, corruption and the impact that desperation can have on our day to day lives. It began running as an off Broadway musical in the early 80’s, later becoming a well known film directed by Frank Oz staring household names such as Rick Moranis and Steve Martin. This production surely exceeded my expectations. Opening to a near full house, the entire cast and five member band brought an impressive elevated level of performance which was exciting to witness.
We are greeted by the three-girl mowtown chorus who blew the audience away in the opening number with their powerful vocals, amazing harmonies and owning the stage with their fiercely synchronised girl band choreography. The story begins at Mr Mushnik’s flower shop introducing us to the grasping business owner and the meek and dejected floral shop assistant Seymour Krelborn (Fred Pryce). The audience are immediately intrigued when Audrey (Lali Gill) quickly appears drawing immediate attention in her colourful and boastful attire scampering across the stage in her stiletto heels. Her tardy nature creating an effectively comedic entrance. Seymour’s desire for Audrey is instantly evident before revealing the key to the shop’s success…his strange plant affectionately named ‘Audrey II’. Go figure!
The plant begins to grow rapidly which results in Seymour’s rise to fame landing himself the role as the local celebrity of Skid Row. It is soon revealed that the fly trap not only develops a tormentors attitude but is the carnivorous kind, having a thirst for the supply of fresh human blood. It is an easy guess who Seymour target’s as Audrey II’s next victim when we are introduced to Audrey’s abusive boyfriend Orin Scrivello the bad boy dentist. Jasper Bruce portrayed a love to hate sadistic character, and was convincingly intimidating when bullying the poor, helpless Audrey. He owned his number ‘Dentist!’ revealing a psychotic doctor incorporating an entertaining use of slapstick whilst singing through a gas mask.
We pine for Audrey during the entirety of the show but of course in particular the touchingly hopeful favourite ‘Somewhere that’s Green’ which Gill performed beautifully dreaming of a life outside the undesirable town. The onstage quirky chemistry between Pryce and Gill was second to none. The audience fell in love with the characters and the admiration that develops for one another which is later portrayed in the show’s well known power number ‘Suddenly Seymour’.
The production’s use of life size puppetry to depict the plant’s transformation was very impressive. I highly compliment Kate O’Sullivan’s flawless performance bringing Audrey II’s gut wrenching thirst and sassy persona to life on stage. The set and hazed lighting should also be commended by capturing the disenchanted essence of the fictional rundown town of Skid Row. The assorted coloured milk crate backdrop added to the perplexity of this strange town with the flower motif effectively appearing throughout and subtle set changes by the ensemble members appearing seamless.
MUSE did a terrific job at intertwining the dark and thought provoking ideas of this show with comedic and amusing musical numbers. The director Rachel Simmons aimed to express her concern and attitude in regards to young people’s struggle in the ability to attain success. Her central theme was the price of success and it really made me question the lengths one can go in order to achieve it. I would highly recommend supporting this talented ensemble and uncover why you shouldn’t feed the plants! (or trust your dentist!)
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.