Providing three nights of pure, unadulterated enjoyment back in April, King’s Musical Theatre Society's choice to mount Little Shop of Horrors may have initially seemed an odd pick for the spring musical. This is a cult classic that’s renowned in the musical theatre sphere for being an odd one, even by the standards of the industry, but this production demonstrated it was definitely the perfect choice.
Under the skillful direction and charisma of the cast, it more than upheld its promise of an unabashed good time for audience members. The concept is quite simple: a failing florist shop in the New York slums picks up a plant that turns out carnivorous, bringing both fame and tragedy to all those involved. Along the way there’s also a romantic subplot, a deranged sadist of a dentist, and plenty of zany black comedy set to a sixties-inspired score.
With Matilda Shapland’s crystal-clear voice and magnetism, and Zain Ahmad’s convincing portrayal as the awkward, charming shop boy turned unwitting abettor and later reluctant killer, the chemistry between the two and their skill in developing the relationship between Audrey and Seymour becomes the central heart of the show. The romance gives the audience something to root for amid what seems to be the hopeless and mundane life that the characters have long been resigned to living. As the stakes get higher for Seymour, Audrey provides him and the audience with some reprieve from the increasingly dangerous game Seymour finds himself locked in with the character that the plot revolves around: the plant.
But perhaps the most ingenious choice in this production was to have the infamous plant not be a typical puppet, as most productions have had, but an anthropormophised group of dancers with Kai Patel at its helm, who practically oozes sass and star power. Undeniably some of the best parts of the show, each song and dance number by Audrey II were scene-stealers met with fervid applause by the audience on opening night - of whom initially started out looking unsure where it would lead, but were more than ready to jump to their feet by the time the initial puppet was swapped out for the team. Supported by slick and sexy choreography, and wonderfully executed by its perfectly synchronised dancers, each of the plant's carnivorous attempts was a thrilling one.
You can’t help but root a little for the plant, charismatic as they are. The entire cast is spectacular, from Mushnik to the urchins, but Senri Furukawa, in particular, is striking in her role as one of the ‘limbs’ of said plant. Another honorable mention goes to Orin Scrivello, who plays the deranged dentist who quite literally laughs himself to death.
The novelty of the material means that in lesser hands, it could have easily been flimsy and overwrought, and more than likely would have bent under its own weight to promise ‘entertainment’. Yet, this production is carried by its talent and charisma to feed the audience’s hungry expectations, making it an unquestionable success.
Click through the gallery of production shots here:
Edited by Georgia Gibson, Theatre Editor.
Photos courtesy of King's Musical Theatre Society.