by book and lyrics by Howard Ashman music by Alan Menken from the screenplay by Charles Griffiths for the film by Roger Corman.

Royal Exchange Theatre St Ann’s Square M2 7DH To 31 January 2015.
Mon-Fri 7.30pm Sat 8pm no performance 19, 26 Jan Mat Wed 2.30pm Sat 3.30pm.
Audio-described 10 Jan 3.30pm.
BSL Signed 13 Jan.
Captioned 6 Jan.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.

TICKETS: 00161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden.

Something of a silk purse production.
It’s B-movie time at the theatre, with two celebrated screen/stage transplants on show. Bob Carlton’s compilation of 50s rock standards in the Shakespeare/Freud-soaked Return to the Forbidden Planet cropped-up again at Carlton’s Hornchurch hothouse, the Queen’s, prior to spreading its buds on tour in 2015. And Manchester’s Royal Exchange, ever-varying in the shades of light entertainment it serves-up around Christmas, has Audrey II, the carnivorous gourmand of a plant blooming across its stage.

Plant-life apart, Little Shop is a routine Hollywood story of hope for every nervous youth who imagines he’ll never get the (indeed, any) girl. Gunnar Cauthery’s Seymour, nerdy but nice, comes no closer to desirable Audrey than naming his mysterious pot-plant after her. Though her dentist-lover Orin is a bully who knocks her about, Seymour’s low self-esteem seems incurable.

But Audrey II, growing from curious miniature to stage-filling devourer of people, forces the fearful youth into protector mode, a shop-assistant against a vegetable monster with an appetite that moves on from the nasty, whose gobbling-up slips easily down an audience’s throat, to the more sympathetic characters. That did for the film in its original form, and it’s somewhat fudged, for the same reason, in Derek Bond’s revival where the final moments see narration by sensation rather than sense.

It remains a notch-or-three above the material. Singing and humour are forceful, yet find space for a sense of character within the stereotypes, while a three-strong female Black chorus parade and comment confidently in song. Bright in dress and manner they bring bling to Skid Row, and a strong sense of survival to the run-down location where a florist’s shop, hardly surprisingly, doesn’t flourish (though well-heeled customers are about). Sévan Stephan as its owner, and Ako Mitchell as the nasty dentist create characters readily served-up to Audrey II’s appetite while Kelly Price brings an individual vulnerability to the put-upon Audrey, helping make this a very humanised Skid Row.

Richard Howell’s lighting streams colourfully across a set by James Perkins which creates the dullness of the shop while deep-throated Audrey II, increasingly acquiring animal-like features, becomes a splendid fear-inspiring creation.

Seymour Krelborn: Gunnar Cauthery.
Audrey: Kelly Price.
Mr Mushnik: Sévan Stephan.
Orin Scrivello: Ako Mitchell.
Audrey II: Nuno Silva.
Crystal: Ellena Vincent.
Chiffon: Ibinabo Jack.
Ronnette: Joelle Moses.
Ensemble/Puppeteers: James Charlton, C J Johnson.

Director: Derek Bond.
Designer: James Perkins.
Lighting: Richard Howell.
Sound: Richard Brooker.
Musical Director/Choreographer: Tim Jackson.
Puppet designer/director: Toby Olié.
Assistant director: Charlotte Lewis.
Associate sound: Ross Portway.
Assistant musical directors: Alex Beetschen, Ben Holder.

2014-12-26 02:23:06

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