Little Shop of Horrors
Review courtesy of The Northern Scot's Theatre Critic, Ian Gill
The camp cult classic, ‘Little Shop of Horrors’, seemed like an unlikely subject for the latest production by drama students at Gordonstoun School.
But then, with music, pathos, black comedy and a huge, extra-terrestrial, talking, carnivorous plant at centre stage, what’s not to love? The show started life as a sci-fi B movie in 1960, and was later turned into an off-Broadway musical, before being filmed again in 1986, with Rick Moranis in the lead role, and eventually becoming the subject of a long-running Broadway revival.
I vaguely remember having been distinctly underwhelmed by the film, but fortunately it played better as a live show, boasting exuberant performances by a talented youthful cast.
Set in a run-down florist’s shop in Skid Row, it tells the story of timid and geeky shop assistant Seymour, who cultivates an unusual new plant that he eventually realises will thrive not on Baby Bio but human blood. When the plant, which he christens Audrey 2 after the fellow shop assistant he adores, turns his fortunes around - bringing him success, celebrity and, most importantly, the affections of his beloved Audrey - he is forced to give it what it craves or risk losing everything.
The staging of the show was inventive, and direction, by the school’s head of drama, Nigel Williams, was imaginative and intelligent, drawing the very most out of every member of the cast, while musical direction was in a safe pair of hands in Simon Burbury. It was a production that was packed with star turns, most notably from Tom W, who brought to the central part of the nerdy Seymour immense charm and stage presence; Rob L, who played Audrey’s abusive boyfriend - a despotic dentist addicted to nitrous oxide - as a cross between the maniacal sadist portrayed by Laurence Olivier in ‘Marathon Man’ and, well, the Fonz, and Jolley G, whose performance as Mushnik, the down-at-heel Skid Row florist, I feel sure must have been styled on bartender Mo Szyslak out of ‘The Simpsons’. Also making their mark were Aynsleigh McG as Audrey, Seymour’s blowsy and slightly ditsy love interest; Bernard P, who turned up, as did many of the cast, in various guises, and Nicola R, who had a voice and charisma that would have put many an ‘X Factor’ hopeful to shame.
Oddly enough, though, for a show so stuffed with star turns, the strength of this production was its ensemble nature. One of its strongest elements was provided by the Chiffons, a chorus of 1950s-style floosies in polka dot skirts who brought invaluable energy, colour and movement to the production and remained in character even while sitting at the side of the stage awaiting their next cues.
And although the principals all turned in accomplished, confident performances, the strongest parts of the show were the big crowd-pleasing production numbers which employed the entire cast. It’s a show in which some of the songs - notably ‘Mushnik and Son’, ‘Suddenly Seymour’ and ‘Somewhere that’s Green’ - are more successful than others, but the conviction with which they were delivered was universally strong and assured. All of the principals sang every bit as well as they acted, and Chris C, supplying the vocals for Audrey 2, revealed a strong blues voice which belied his youth.
The entire cast, in fact, turned in confident performances, creating an uplifting production which provided the perfect antidote to the gale-force winds that were howling outside the school’s Ogstoun Theatre.
A monster hit, you could say.