Dereham Theatre Company - LittleShop
Little Shop Of Horrors
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Director - Chrissie Robertson
Musical Director - Jo Kemp
Choreographer - Emma Hammond
13th to 18th October 2014
at Dereham Memorial Hall
SEYMOUR - Paul Allum
AUDREY - Francesca Read
MUSHNIK - Nick Bird
ORIN - Gareth Evans
AUDREY 2 (Voice) - John McInnes
CHIFFON - Amy Power
CRYSTAL - Ellie Buckingham
RONNETTE - Kerrie Berridge
PLANT OPERATORS - Nathan Harrod & Elliot Hunter
MRS BERNSTEIN - Lavinia Pirret
MRS LUCE - Jade Copeman
SKIP SNIP - Kevin Reeve
PAT MARTIN - Selina Bhantoo
Lucy Daniels, Jade Copeman, Karen Barnes, Kevin Reeve, Helen Bailey, Doug Bailey, Selina Bhantoo, Heather Neave, Chloe Bailey, Lavinia Pirret
Review by Stephen P. E. Hayter, NODA Regional Representative Area 4 North
22nd October 2014
"Before "The Little Mermaid" and a bucket load of beautiful Disney songs, the formidable talents of Howards Ashman and Alan Menken converged on this completely off-the-wall musical. More snooty theatregoers turned up their noses then, and some still do now, but amongst all of the Oklahoma's, this piece of genius is like an oasis of fun in a desert of Stetsons, and I was overjoyed to be taking my seat at the Dereham Memorial Hall for The Dereham Theatre Company's presentation of "Little Shop of Horrors".
The story is unconventional in as much as there is nothing glamorous or even remotely inspiring about any of these well drawn "Regular Joe" characters. In fact, it is only that they all have nothing going for them that makes them so endearing. Mushnik owns a flower shop on "Skid Row" ... and not surprisingly, business is not brisk. His staff consists of Seymour and Audrey; the first being a wimp with a knowledge of horticulture and a deep seated love for Audrey and the second, a punch bag of a girlfriend with low self-esteem. Everything changes when a freak meteorite storm lands Seymour with a strange new breed of plant.
This hybrid of a show has no real chorus numbers and no real chorus but there are a selection of down-and-outs, dancers and cameos all of which were beautifully played and made a very realistic backdrop to proceedings. Jade Copeman, Chloe Bailey, Lucy Daniels and Selina Bhantoo were the dancers (And cameos) and Helen Bailey, Douglas Bailey, Heather Neave, Karen Barnes, Lavinia Pirret and Kevin Reeve were everything else and there are very few shows where you can name the whole chorus! In truth I must commend choreographer Emma Hammond for sneaking in an impressive ensemble dance routine where I can't remember one being before. The slack in any musical that would normally be taken by the aforementioned chorus goes to a trio of backing singers Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette (get it?) played and sung to perfection by Amy Power, Ellie Buckingham and Kerrie Berridge. They drive the story along and the three superb voices melted together with excellent harmonies, to form a hypnotic fifties sound that was a complete joy on every occasion.
In the more prominent roles Gareth Evans was on top form as sadistic Dentist (and Audrey's boyfriend) Orin, delivering a great comedy character and the main comedy song. The toughest part to play in this production would have to be the failing florist Mushnik. Why? Because that's the part I always wanted. What else can I say other than the ever impressive Nick Bird did it just how I have always felt it should be done, very Jewish and very funny.
In the role of Audrey, there is seldom any variation in how it is played, only the quality of the performance. On this particular night Francesca Read was completely mesmerising with a confident and often touching characterisation oozing with pathos. I think if the part is done well, it should be impossible not to cry during her "Somewhere That's Green" death scene reprise and I most certainly did. She looked about 26 on stage but with the dress, heels and make-up removed at the after show gathering I got the distinct impression she was a lot younger, making her performance even more impressive. Before the penultimate paragraph I must mention the plant duo of Nathan Harrod as the movement, and the velvet vocals of John McInnes as the voice. As good an Audrey 2 as I have seen.
I am delighted to report that the penultimate paragraph could have gone to any number of the performers in this show, but I have elected to bequeath it to the male lead Paul Allum as Seymour. The part is often taken by a small, slight person (as with Rick Moranis in the film) but Mr Allum was a regular size and shape and used only his skill to present a diminutive soul. His acting was of the very highest standard and his singing voice a delight from start to finish.
Warmest congratulations to Director, Chrissie Robertson, for a flawless piece of direction that showed the great talent of this ensemble to its best advantage and the standard of the music, lyrics and script to be of the highest quality. Equally I must commend Musical Director Joanna Kemp and her impressive 8 piece combo for a truly remarkable sound. Speaking to the Emotive sound and light team afterwards they pointed out that there had been suggestions that the orchestra had been too loud. I totally disagree, the orchestra was at the right level, but some of the vocal a little quiet. I spoke to Mrs Robertson after the show and she threw a couple of quotes from my last review back at me ... I hope she will do it again the next time we meet, because this production was outstanding!"