Saoirse O’Connor reviews Little Shop of Horrors which played at Sophia Gardens as a part of Everyman’s Cardiff Open Air Festival.
Little Shop of Horrors, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s musical originally staged in 1982, has no right to be as entertaining as it is in 2022. With its 50s references and 60s-inspired music, it should have long been surpassed by the Sixes and Hamilton’s of musical theatre, but when it’s staged as joyously as by the Everyman Company currently performing in Sophia Gardens even the biggest sceptic would have to admit it’s difficult to imagine a more enjoyable 2 hours… and most things are more interesting with a giant man-eating plant.
The plot follows lovelorn florist assistant (and aspiring botanical genius) Seymour Krelborn and his slowly rising body count as he attempts to sate the appetites of the alien plant who’s his ticket to fame, fortune and the love of his life. Dan Thomas does an excellent job as Seymour, not just singing and dancing but masterfully manipulating a medium-sized Audrey II in the first half of the show. He’s matched by Laura Richards who breathes new life into Audrey (Seymour’s co-worker and love interest), a character who is easily reduced into a simpering pushover, but instead is funny and charming with excellent comic timing.
A talented and well-stocked ensemble who join in on some of the numbers usually kept to the principles, create a Skid Row that feels significantly more like a community of the hard of luck and the downtrodden than desperate individuals who’d happily put their foot in your face if it might get them out of there. Instead, it feels like all of Skid Row is hoping these two crazy kids make it out, adding additional pressure to an already cracking Seymour, and making it even more tragic when they end up as supper. Amy Coombes, Giaccolina Maria Crothers and Harriet Taylor are sparkling (and sometimes sequiney) leaders of the cast as Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon, the street urchins who stand in as a Greek chorus for the show and who showcase an impressive number of costume changes.
Lewis Cook has a real star turn as Audrey’s abusive boyfriend Orin Scrivell, the sadistic dentist whose technique emulates the Marquis de Sade. He might be addicted to laughing gas, but it’s his dulcet tones and pelvic thrusts that kept the audience in stitches, with a nice follow up as Seymour’s three corporate temptors.
And of course, what would Little Shop be without its star performer: Pedro Lloyd Gardiner and Aled Jones-Pritchard combine their talents as ‘The Voice’ and ‘The Body’ respectively, to menace the audience, and as night begins to fall there is something genuinely frightening in the way Twoey looms out of the darkness, literally glowing with a sickly green light, slowly consuming cast members. Watching Audrey II grow from a pot carried by Seymour to a sprawling eldritch horror dominating the stage is one of the best parts of the show and this iteration doesn’t fail to disappoint. Little Shop of Horrors blossoms into an entertaining evening that will have you up jiving in your seats, and maybe giving your houseplants the side eye when you get home.
Find out more about Everyman 2022 here.