This wickedly nihilistic update of Little Shop of Horrors is a near-perfect union of cast, venue and text – a surefire contender for bags of awards come the end of the year.
The story will be familiar to most – geeky horticulturist Seymour finds a monstrous man-eating plant, which brings him fame and fortune, but at an appropriately monstrous price – but the real joy here is the anarchic way in which the yarn is spun.
There’s more than a dash of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to director Maria Aberg’s kitsch and campy production, not least in the inspired casting of drag queen Vicky Vox to play carnivorous plant Audrey II.
She joins a talented ensemble, with the chorus providing wonderful soul-style vocals, while Seymour and his object of affection Audrey are thoroughly likeable, making light of the narrative heavy-lifting. Best of all, however, is Matt Willis as Audrey’s good for nothing boyfriend, a psychopathic biker who plies his trade as a dentist in order to sate his sadistic urges. His big numbers are proper laugh-out-loud moments.
It helps, of course, that Little Shop of Horrors is such a great musical to begin with. Hits like Somewhere That’s Green and Suddenly Seymour are bona fide classics, delivered here with little messing around. With other numbers, however, Aberg has all kinds of fun, especially post-curtain call tune Finale Ultimo, which had the audience cheering like wide-eyed children.
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre proves to be the perfect venue, with the swaying greenery and pinky sunset providing a wonderful backdrop; even a splash of rain didn’t dampen the carnival atmosphere.
There’s a message in Little Shop of Horrors if you’re looking for it – at the heart of the story is a Faustian pact: fame and fortune and maybe the girl in exchange for a (rather literal) pound of flesh. But this production doesn’t moralise – Audrey II is evil, sure, but she’s also bright and fun, and when she starts eating people you’re kind of on the plant’s side.
There’s no excuse for missing this show; just don’t forget your umbrella.