Review by Meg Kiddle
Look out, Look out, Look out, Look out!
Audrey II has arrived at Spotlight Theatre in a kaleidoscope of swirling vibrant colours! This quirky cult classic is sure to delight both seasoned and new fans of Spotlight’s latest show Little Shop Of Horrors.
Music is by Alan Menken and lyrics/book by Howard Ashman, this pairing brought us the well-known Disney classics, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast but this Comedy, Horror, Rock Musical show is a definite jump to the left into rock and roll, early Motown and Doo wap flavours that will scintillate your music theatre tastebuds!
The story unfolds under the expert direction and choreography of Jamie Watt who has taken meticulous care to ensure no small detail is missed, every actor on the stage is always engaged in their own stage life which makes for very entertaining theatre no matter where you may look. There is always something to be seen and yet does not detract from the main action. The choreography is sharp and well executed by the cast and appropriate for the era.
The musical, based very loosely on the low budget 1960 Black and White movie The Little Shop of Horrors, premiered Off-Off Broadway in 1982 before moving to Off Broadway where it ran for 5 years at the Orpheum Theatre. Numerous productions around the globe followed with a subsequent Broadway production in 2003. This was not met with a great reaction and had critics complaining that in expanding the show to fit a larger theatre, its intimacy was lost.
This is something not lost on set designers (Clay English and Jamie Watt). The clever stage set makes the most of the space available with the use of an impressive revolve as the interior of the flower shop where much of the action takes place. This is easily spun to see the action outside.
Our story begins with a harmonious Greek chorus of urchins; Crystal (Gabriella Pegler), Chiffon (Shaylee Gear) and Ronnette (Tori Waiata Aston) who whisk us away to the heart of Skid Row where a total eclipse of the sun has just occurred, and the world is catapulted into unknown catastrophic danger. Their vocals are strong, pure and impressive and they have been coached well on the intricate harmonies. At times though, a little out of balance in the opening number.
From the very beginning there is no doubt of an exciting night ahead as our urchins make commentary and keep the plot moving along with excellent comedic timing and beautiful singing. Of note was Aston whose lively countenance and almost knowing sneer was captivating throughout the entire show.
We meet our unlikely and reluctant hero Seymour (Benjamin Hambley), a penniless orphan who works in Mushnik’s Flower shop for shelter and food. Hambley delivers the beautiful and pleading “Grow for me” effortlessly ticking off all the rock and roll vocal effects of the era. Hambley’s Seymour is perfectly cast alongside his (not so) secret love Audrey (Hannah Crowther). Her taste in fashion (for me) could have leaned a little more to the tacky but is nonetheless delightful to watch mincing around and expertly navigating the stairs in ridiculously high heels. Her wistful innocence and humour brought depth and a beautiful narrative to “Somewhere that’s Green”. Together, Hambley and Crowther, deliver a rendition of “Suddenly Seymour” that is beautiful and technically perfect.
Under the expertise of Musical Director, Peter Laughton, the voices intertwine effectively and soar beautifully. There is however at times an imbalance to the tracks and voices resulting in the text not always being clearly heard but this seems to improve as the show progresses.
A standout comedian as Mr Musnick, Rob K projects the correct levels of cynicism and world weariness as he deals with the two hapless charity cases that are his employees. When a suspiciously strange plant is discovered by Seymour he names it after the only thing that means anything to him. Audrey II is deliciously voiced by Matt McKenzie and cleverly puppeteered in the first act by Andrew Kassar and Kik Tierney.
Audrey’s abusive boyfriend, Orin Scrivello D.D.S. a sadistic Dentist, is hilariously portrayed by Dean Giltenan. He is a perfect physical foil to Hambley working his height and frame to completely intimidate our stammering hero. His gyrations and characterisation during “Dentist” are a stand out and make him at once a crowd favourite.
In the second act at the centre of the store is the ingeniously placed Audrey II, which we find out is no longer a puppet (as is traditionally presented), but in fact Mackenzie (who performs the voice of Audrey II) cleverly disguised as the plant. The human centre is cleverly revealed well after the act has commenced. His Stamen head-dress that would make any Priscilla team drool with envy is a majestic and colourful touch. Playing Audrey II in the physical created a fabulous effect and the costume and design team are to be congratulated on creating the perfect disguise! McKenzie’s evil facial expressions and compelling physical movements complete Audrey II to bring us a new understanding of this sinister, power-hungry alien.
The small ensemble completes this cast including the talents of Angelique Giufffre, Naomi Leader, Jemma Gailey, Jennifer Cole, Liam Gatt, Clay Carlaw and Andrew Kassab who all deserve high praise for their outstanding vocals, stagecraft and choreography in many busy scenes. There is an obvious rapport and cohesiveness to the cast which is delightful to see.
The direction from Watt is excellent with not a dull moment throughout, including a one woman vagrant pre-performance to set the tone for the evening. The sound and lighting design was subtle and effective, the use of tracks instead of a live band allowed greater use of the space.
This is Community Theatre as it should be! In one word this show is stupendous, and you will be sorry to have missed out if you don’t get along to see Little Shop of Horrors playing at Spotlight Theatre until 20 August! Tickets are still on sale here