Of all the great successes that got their start from Roger Corman, including Jack Nicholson and Martin Scorsese, none could be more surprisingly astronomical to the man than his 1959 movie about a man-eating plant, being as it was thrown together and shot in a couple of days at the end of another movie’s schedule. Cut to half a century, a hit stage-musical and hit musical film later and the show retains much of its appeal, a few damaging stereotypes aside.
Is the show timely at all?
Dorky lovelorn flower-shop assistant Seymour (Damian Humbley) finds a curious little plant that might just bring him the success he needs to steal the affections of co-worker Audrey (Clare Buckfield) from her psychosexually sadistic boyfriend Orin Scrivello (Alex Ferns) and at the same time save his boss Mushnik’s (Kraig Thornber) shop from ruin. The catch? The plant, named by its finder as Audrey II, has a taste for human flesh.
Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s songs are as enjoyably daft as ever in the hands of this more-than-competent creative team. Director Mathew White rounds out the show at an appropriately brisk pace and the ensemble relish their roles, not least Clive Rowe as the diva-esque voice of Audrey II. David Farley’s dingy-street set, evocatively lit by David Howe, is so densely atmospheric that you’re almost disappointed when the show starts. Complaining about the sentimentality or clichés with this brand of McMusical seems more trite than the clichés themselves. Is the show timely at all? How about adding to the pantheon of evil mother-nature stories, such as The Happening or The Day After Tomorrow, proving popular in these times of impending ecological disaster? Or perhaps the insatiable monster that promises wealth and success but can only grow at the cost of human lives is a metaphor for the capitalist system that landed us in the recession we’re slowly climbing out of? Well, no. In fact, the only plausible economic point about the show is that it’s here for its built-in audience and safe-bet popularity, but there’s a reason for this: it’s a terribly enjoyable show.
Festival Theatre, Mon Sep 28 – Sat 3 Oct