LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

Date 8th April 2019
Society Ballywillan Drama Group
Venue Riverside Theatre, Coleraine
Director Brian Logan
Musical Director Eric Boyd
Choreographer Sharon Logan

Report

Author: Sheelagh Hobart

“A deviously delicious sci-fi smash hit which has devoured the hearts of theatre goers for over thirty years” – so says Music Theatre International, Europe and I am inclined to agree. Very popular with amateur companies and schools, this musical is fairly easy to produce and not too expensive – once you have found or made the set of four plants (no credit in the programme for where the plants came from – only extra bits by Karen Hunter!)
I loved the ability of the third plant to cross it’s tentacles in sexy manner as a lady would cross her legs!! Inside the 2 large plants, Chairman Richard Mairs had the hot and sweaty job of puppeteer which he coped with well. Its voice came from Helen Wilkinson, whose strong jazz and blues vocals were ideal. The shop set was the full width of the very wide Riverside stage which I thought was a pity – space could have been left at the sides so that the shop door could be regularly accessed. Too many times actors walked in or out of the shop through the front “wall’. Also there was no clear delineation between the inside and outside of the shop when the chorus was on stage. I did like the bell on the shop door and the large number of flowers on show when the flower shop was renovated. Props were mostly good but telephones should have had flexes (to get tangled in “Call back in the morning”) and the excellent gas mask should have had Nitrous Oxide cylinders. Costumes were varied – mostly appropriate but why on earth was the dentist’s uniform dark blue and the bloody uniform which Seymour hid in the bin white? I liked the theme of checks and tartans for the ‘Six Degrees’ at opening, then red, black and denim and then sparkly full length dresses. I thought that Audrey’s costumes were really rather nice – not nearly ‘tacky’ enough; chorus “plant tendril” costumes for the finale were a nice touch. As one would expect from Brian Logan, Lighting was always atmospheric but I would have liked a bit more light at times – especially to identify who I was applauding at the end of the show!! Sound was good and balanced stage and orchestra well.

Instead of “street urchins” there were “Six Degrees” to set the scene and comment on the action throughout. Megan Cunning, Laura Fisher, Clare Campbell, Amy McCubbin, Chloe Freeman and Kellyann Mckillen divided the lines of the Greek chorus of three between them and harmonised pretty well. Paul Sleet played the greedy and manipulative shop owner Mr Mushnik always looking a little suspicious! Stevie Black was the nasty and sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello with great ‘tattoos’(!) but could have made a little more of inhaling and laughing with the effects of the nitrous oxide. Smaller roles were all well cast – I particularly enjoyed Jim Everett as Bernstein, Maxine McAleenon as Mrs Luce and Patrick Connor as Skip Snip. The ensemble of tramps, winos and vagrants all worked effectively to give authentic background to Skid Row and I also enjoyed their short sojourn as sexy nuns!

While Donelle could have looked a bit tackier as Audrey, she nevertheless had the lispy voice and “tottery” walk associated with her timid and abused character. She sang “Somewhere that’s green” most beautifully, (listening - I had a lump in my throat). Alan McClarty was the epitome of the meek and hapless Seymour, who does not know how to deal with his new found fame – or with co-worker Audrey with whom he is secretly in love. Alan’s body language always portrayed the insecure misfit so well and yet he was the most athletic Seymour I have ever seen!! His onstage rapport with both Donelle and Paul was always appropriate – “Mushnik & Son” and “Suddenly Seymour” were vocal highlights.

Eric Boyd’s 6 piece combo gave a great lead to this comedy rock classic with music by Alan Menken in the style of 60s rock ‘n roll, doo-wop and early Motown. Although there are no opportunities for major choreographed numbers in this show, musical staging by Sharon all worked smoothly and effectively, and Brian’s direction moved the action on apace.

With so little time elapsing between Ballywillan D.G’s major production of “Chitty” and this, the company did well to put together another musical. Everyone involved must be congratulated on their commitment to BDG and I look forward to their next production. Take a rest now!