Concorde Productions presents Little Shop of Horrors
This week we went to see the rock musical Little Shop of Horrors [music by Alan Menken] at the excellent Magna Carta Arts Centre in Egham put on by Concorde Productions, directed by Craig Howard.
Most people are familiar with the 1986 movie and recall Rick Moranis as Seymour and Steve Martin as the dentist. In fact, the film directed by Frank Oz features an assortment of recognizable faces.
This famous musical has lived an inverted existence… the story first came to the public as a cult film ( in 1960, with Jack Nicholson.)
This was later envisioned as an off-Broadway stage musical in 1982 and had a five-year run, with shows in London’s West End in 1983, then the big production movie in 1986 before finally moving to Broadway production.
The story is about a pitiful florist shop worker who fancies his glamorous but trashy co-worker, and raises a plant that feeds on blood and human flesh. The plant grows during the show and and although it resembles a classic “window-sill plant” cultivated by amateurs — a cross between a Venus flytrap and one of those avocados you try to grow from the stone — it eventually becomes a monster that dominates the entire stage.
The story begins in Mushnik’s Flower Shop in Skid Row where the audience is introduced to the miserly and miserable old shopkeeper (played convincingly by John Wesson.) The glamorous blond bombshell shop assistant Audrey (played by Georgie Glover) arrives late and with an injury on her face (it later becomes clear that the shiner was given to her by boyfriend Orin, the sadistic dentist played by Billy Reynolds.)
The hero of the story, Seymour (played by a lanky Christopher Blackmore who seems very Brad Majorish in this production) appears from the back-room where he’s been raising a little plant he discovered. It’s a surprisingly odd looking thing so Audrey invites Mushnik to put it into the shop window to draw-in custom. The moment they do, a woman comes in to enquire about the odd looking plant and, while there, places a huge order.
So the plant, baptized by Seymour as Audrey II [ voiced by Trevor Begley and with puppeteering by Shaun Lati] becomes a permanent feature in the window and its not long before it starts to bring good fortune to the store, and in particular to Seymour.
But, like a malicious genie, the talking plant soon starts to demand a price for the wishes it grants. And, because it’s a carnivore, the price is blood. To begin with, occasionally, its a drop from Seymour’s fingertip. But soon the cultivar gets more demanding and that’s when things get horrific.
This was an excellent production with great staging and superior music. We loved the Phil Spector-style Peppermint Lounge singing group comprising of Ronette (Helen Tang-Grosso) Crystal (Julie Antoniou) and Chiffon (Cate Baines) and who drive the story and act as semi-narrative detractors. The dance (choreography by Honor Lily Redman) was spot on. And their inflections clearly accentuated.
Georgie Glover played the bimbo with a heart and she was perfect. She never let us down, although the moving aria, Somewhere That’s Green could have been given more prominence.
But our favourite song from the show, the duet Suddenly, Seymour, was perfectly rendered.
The music is largely rock and roll and doo-wop and seemed to be far more Jewish-sounding at Magna Carta than I recall, making Mushnik a recognisable Fagin character. The voice of Audrey II and the puppet-work was impeccable. The only truly amateurish scene was the final song, where the cast return with petals around their faces and was perhaps supposed to be a whimsical mockery of music-hall troupes, but actually looked pretty lame.
There are several sub-texts lurking under the fundamental premise. One is the proposal that fame and fortune always costs. Sometimes the cost can be dear.
Another subtext is that when a man grows something its not so easy to control that thing and the thing can’t easily be pushed back into its container.
The story is also judgemental about the haves and the have-nots (although I couldn’t help thinking that if the musical was set in May’s Britain neither Seymour nor Audrey would still be employed by Mushnik or they would be signed to zero hours contracts.)
The other vituperative attack is on domestic violence and how, often, it’s the female partner who thinks she’s somehow “to blame” and finds it difficult to escape the brutality.
This was an exemplary spectacle, a fun evening, and a slick show. It had just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek humour and some excellent song and dance. Wonderful.
Formerly known as The Concorde Players the friendly amateur dramatics group called Concorde Productions was initially for friends and colleagues of British Airways. Following the closure of the Concorde Centre in Heston, they have now moved home to the Magna Carta Arts Centre in Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey for their productions.
If you’d like to be part of their team both onstage and off you should contact them.