Sunday, June 03, 2007

Little Shop of Horrors - Duke of York's Theatre, 30 May

You know that a production is really good when you can start a discussion of pretty much every element of it with the phrase: "But the real star of the show was...". And that really is the case with this production of Little Shop of Horrors, which has transferred from the Menier Chocolate Factory, just as the superlative Sunday In The Park With George did last Summer. I would certainly make a special effort to see anything they put on, on the evidence of these two shows.

So, the first nomination for The Star Of The Show is Sheridan Smith as the sexy-but-sweet Audrey. I've got to reveal a little bias towards Sheridan, as while I was doing the rounds of dancing competitions she was always there, everywhere from Cleethorpes to London, and she was *always* standing out. This girl is a star, and it's brilliant that she's back in the West End, and not in TV shows I really don't want to watch. Her voice is strong and clear, she's got funny bones, and you really liked and cared for her character. Second nomination is her co-star, Paul Keating who played the hapless Seymour. Keating doesn't just act with his face, he acts with his whole body. He's a fantastic physical performer, a clown almost, and he's got a wonderful voice too.

But both of these two star performers were often on the brink of being upstaged by the three girls, Katie Kerr, Melitsa Nicola and Jenny Fitzpatrick, who make up the chorus. Each of them had huge, distinctive voices, which made the most of Howard Ashman's witty lyrics, and Alan Menken's (remember why he's so great?) fabulous doo-wop and rock n' roll score. Plus they were given amazingly funny choreography by Lynne Page, which they all threw themselves into with gusto.

Then there's Audrey II. The plant was designed by David Farley (along with the set and the costumes) and brought to life by master puppeteer Andy Heath, who has worked with Jim Hensen's Muppet Workshop (of course!). The deep, soulful voice is provided by Mike McShane, who clearly revelled in that brilliant line: FEED ME!'. Audrey II grew and grew in front of our eyes, right out into the audience, and, occasionally, was genuinely threatening, just as he should be. Add to all of this a fittingly over-the-top performance from Alistair McGowan as the sadistic Dentist (and many other parts) and you've got a hugely satisfying production - funny, touching and exquisitely casted.

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