There aren’t many musicals that have an all-singing, all-dancing, carnivorous plant with an unquenchable thirst for human blood as one of its central characters. Consequently I have always had a soft spot for Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s science fiction-inspired production, Little Shop of Horrors. Brought thrillingly to life by Seedtime (a company of talented final year students from performing arts school London Studio Centre, who have chosen to specialise in musical theatre), who for the most part deliver high-octane and accomplished performances – showcasing that many of the musical theatre stars of tomorrow have honed their singing, dancing and acting abilities to such a high standard that they are what the industry commonly refers to as ‘triple-threats’.
The residents of Skid Row are downbeat, dejected and struggling to make ends meet. One such failing business is Mrs Mushnik’s run-down florist: with no customers passing through, it like many other businesses on Skid Row will surely face inevitable closure. That is until Seymour (Jamie Tibke), a gawky floral assistant, discovers a new species of “strange and interesting” plant, which once displayed in the shop’s window captures the public’s interest and drums up some much-needed custom for the business. His botanical discovery, which he names Audrey II, unexpectedly catapults a socially awkward Seymour to fame, as he becomes an overnight media sensation. However, Audrey II – whose gravelly and blues-infused tones are voiced superbly by Ryan Ridley – is an ill-tempered plant whose constant demands for human blood force Seymour to go to sinisterly immoral lengths to satisfy his plant’s insatiable needs
For the most part, Seedtime’s production of Little Shop of Horrors stays true to the characterisation used in Frank Oz’s 1986 film version of the work. For instance, the quintet of Ronnettes echo the sassy and vivacious nature of the original brilliantly. I was particularly impressed that, as Audrey, Abigayle Honeywill is able to sustain the same high-pitched Tweety Pie-esque voice, which Ellen Greene memorably created for Audrey, for the duration of the piece. Honeywill captures Audrey’s sweet, ditzy and vulnerable nature perfectly. Her formidable singing voice is showcased superbly in ‘Suddenly Seymour’ and in her final musical number, the reprise of ‘Somewhere That’s Green’. That said, I did think that for a character that is described as a “semi-sadist”, Connor Minney’s depiction of Audrey’s controlling boyfriend Orin could make more of his character’s manic and sadistic tendencies. Another performance that is worthy of note is Robyn Richford, who plays an assortment of parts within the ensemble – whenever she was on stage my eye always seemed to be drawn towards her animated performances.
Seedtime’s rendition of Little Shop of Horrors is engaging and enjoyable, and the entire company’s sheer delight and enthusiasm for being on stage is undeniably infectious.
Little Shop of Horrors played at the Pleasance Theatre until 22 June. For more information, see the London Studio Centre website.