Little Shop of Horrors

Date 12th March 2022
Society Erewash Musical Society
Venue The DuchessTheatre, Long Eaton
Type of Production Musical
Director Chris Renshaw
Musical Director Dave Dallard
Choreographer Hayden Fletcher

Report

Author: Martin Holtom

Little Shop of Horrors is a musical that has a special place in my heart having directed two productions over the past 12 years myself.  From the outset it was very interesting to see the EMS production team’s interpretation of the classic: Boy meets Girl, Boy finds plant and feeds it inappropriately, plant eats Girl and Boy plot, of this highly original musical developed from “50s B Movie shocker” roots.

From the audience reaction throughout the night it was clear that the production as a whole had been very well judged by Chris Renshaw in his first “adult” production as Director.  Unless you had read the programme you would not have guessed that this was his first non-youth production as at no time did the pace drop or drag and the Cast diction throughout was crystal clear which ensured that all the jokes, no matter how corny, landed effectively.  Dave Dallard brought his usual high quality of musical direction with Skid Row, Suddenly Seymour, Somewhere That’s Green and Don’t Feed the Plant again having the vocal quality, diction and storytelling essential to telling this darkly comic tale.  The hard work in the rehearsal room was evident in every number and the enjoyment of the cast demonstrated that Dave had expertly judged the joy of Community Theatre journey.   This was also evident in all the choreography throughout the production, so congratulations Hayden for knowing what works with both Cast and audience alike.

Turning to the Cast, although this is a great ensemble show, the 5 key roles (and 6 performers) that are at its heart are of course Seymour, Audrey, Mushnik, Scrivello and Audrey 2 (The 4 physical PODs and the Voice).  Martin Lewis judged his shy but strong interpretation of Seymour to a tee, with a great character arc from timid shopkeeper’s apprentice to attempted plant slayer.  Emma Barnes-Marriott was very strong vocally and also in her characterisation so that the Audrey we saw in the dialogue was also the Audrey in the classic musical numbers, vulnerable, abused, pure at heart and strong.  Martin Briggs managed to stay on the right side of Cliché as the New York shopkeeper and James Bowden also delivered a believable evil Dentist.  John Fletcher and Gabryl Oleshko worked well together as the Voice and Body of the key Plant Pods.  This is no mean feat as when speaking your mouth always moves before the sound is heard, so as a plant operator you need to learn the script to anticipate the lines coming from the Voice (who also can’t adlib).

The supporting cast were strong throughout with Kathi Ludlow as Crystal delivering the nerve-racking and tonsil scraping “Alarm goes of at 7” that starts Skid Row (and the show) with perfect tuning and gusto.  As has become a theme in many productions, the 3 urchins were doubled into 6 urchin/dreamgirls and Kathi, Louise, Hayley, Abigail, Louisa and Jane all delivered their roles with great aplomb.  The gender swapping (except Mrs Luce for once) of Skip Snip, Bernstein and Martin were all great to see and Grace, Anna, Karen and Vicky all added their unique styles to the evening.  The cast was completed by the Ensemble of Customers, Urchins and Shoppers who all added to the fun of this production so congratulations Megan, Elin, Chrissie, Laurie, Natalie, Andrea and Barbara.

The staging, lighting, scene changes and sound balance were excellent throughout and added to the theme of a dingy back-street shop on New York’s darker side of town.  The plant PODs never make the show but can break the show, but there was no danger of that in this production growing in size and providing the flexibility for Gabryl and Martin to make them very animated and characters in their own right.  

So in every respect a very enjoyable show that left the audience asking for more.  Congratulations all and I look forward to seeing you again for Sunset Boulevard in October.