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Little Shop of Horrors review at New Wimbledon, London – ‘big-hearted’

Sam Lupton and Stephanie Clift in Little Shop of Horrors. Photos: Matt Martin Sam Lupton and Stephanie Clift in Little Shop of Horrors. Photos: Matt Martin
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It’s always a pleasure to revisit Little Shop of Horrors, if not actually go flower shopping there. At a time when its creators Alan Menken (music) and Howard Ashman (book, lyrics) are spectacularly represented in the West End by the Broadway version of their 1992 Disney film Aladdin, it’s also a joy to be reminded of the glorious musical and lyrical inventiveness of this original musical from a decade earlier than that film.

It’s a musical flowering in every sense: a veritable bouquet of riches about a blood-thirsty (in every sense) plant that eventually turns into a human-devouring monster. Based on a 1960 B-movie futuristic comic horror film, the score is an irresistible, pitch-perfect pastiche of 1960s music, incorporating doo-wop and Motown references, but the story also has real jeopardy.

Tara Louis Wilkinson’s new touring production manages to straddle that fine line between sincerity and send-up thanks to performances from Sam Lupton as downtrodden florist assistant Seymour and Stephanie Clift as the abused Audrey who works alongside him, that combine extreme vulnerability with truthfulness.

There’s often a temptation to play up these roles to indulge the comedy, but these actors make it both funnier and more touching by playing its honesty. The comedy honours instead go to former X-Factor star Rhydian, who does stellar work as sadistic dentist Orin; while Paul Kissaun lends a striking Jewishness to Mushnik.

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Big-hearted version of a small show that bursts with charm, delight and menace