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Little Shop of Horrors review at Storyhouse, Chester – ‘witty, affectionate and effervescent’

Joshua Lay and Audrey II in Little of Horrors at Storyhouse, Chester

Stephen Mear’s production of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s horror-musical about a bad-ass, bloodthirsty plant paradoxically manages to find something new in the material by taking it back to its B-movie origins. This makes for a delightful sci-fi spectacular, with more sass and swagger than an Elvis hip-thrust.

Though the shenanigans of likeable schlump Seymour (Joshua Lay) and his silky-voiced plant-pal (Ryan O’Gorman) are given a cartoonish edge, Mear’s dynamic choreography, and the tight band and vocals, keep everything on the right side of pantomimic excess.

Michelle Bishop’s take on Audrey, the damsel in distress from Skid Row, is stellar. It takes real skill and wit to bring genuine vulnerability to such a one-dimensional role and Bishop transforms Somewhere That’s Green, a comic ode to suburbia, into a genuine tearjerker.

Cindy Belliot, Emily-Mae and Tanisha Spring make for a strong du-whopping chorus of downtown reprobates. Stephane Anelli, as sadistic dentist Orin, is a little overshadowed, but he sinks his teeth into an especially creepy death-rattle version of It’s Just the Gas.

Though designer Jess Curtis’ interpretation of Audrey II calls to mind Greta, the lady gremlin from Gremlins 2, the plant-puppet is a curiously static presence in such an animated show. Despite having wheels – and, later, legs in its PacMan-style final form – the murderous magnolia remains firmly rooted.

It’s a shame, as the rest of Curtis’ design for the show is as energised as Mear’s effervescent direction. But, even though Audrey II is a bit toothless, it doesn’t diminish this full-bloom production.

Chester Storyhouse’s Andrew Bentley and Alex Clifton: ‘The term ‘regional theatre’ is poisonous: every theatre’s a community theatre’

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Verdict
Witty and affectionate rendition of everyone's favourite B movie killer-plant musical
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