‘Little Shop of Horrors’ was captivating.
To kick off their 2022 season, Savoyards has staged the horror-comedy ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ to the Star Theatre in Wynnum. Established in 1961, Savoyards has been bringing a variety of theatre to their audiences, and this cult classic is next on their list.
Initially performed in 1982, ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is a horror-comedy musical with a 1960s pop-rock score written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.The story focuses on Seymour Krelborn and Audrey, Mushnik’s Skid Row Florists employees, who dream of better lives outside of their run-down neighbourhood Skid Row. However, life in the florist is changed after Seymour discovers an unusual plant he named Audrey II and soon discovers its thirst for blood. As the plant grows, so does Seymour’s fame; the florist bursts into life as customers come flooding to the once unsuccessful store. Seymour eventually discovers the plant’s true intentions for world domination, but he’s too late.
The Star Theatre boasted an ample space with appropriate lighting equipment. Lighting director Ethan Houley used simple lighting to the story’s advantage; creating an effective sense of realism in a largely unrealistic world.
During “Da-Doo”, Seymour recounted the day he found Audrey II. When he mentioned the solar eclipse of the sun, all the lighting turned off, leaving the audience and cast in complete darkness (like a solar eclipse) as he continued his narration. When the lights turned back on, Seymour found Audrey II in front of him – a simple but effective use of lighting. Another example of creative lighting from Houley was seen during the end of “Now (It’s Just the Gas)”. After the dentist’s death, the Street Urchins/Greek Chorus are seen entering the stage, lit by a blacklight, embellishing the glowing elements of their costume that were not visible until that point. This lighting effect also added to the eerie atmosphere created by the music and the recent death of the dentist.
Andrew Herrmann managed the sound design for ‘Little Shop of Horrors’. Herrmann added reverb to Audrey II, giving the plant a booming voice effect that made it sound more intimidating. Herrmann and Houley together used these techniques to aid in creating a unified overall eeriness to the show.
Designed by Wendy Pascoe, the set was detailed and captivating. Pascoe used zoning to clearly distinguish between the flower shop and the streets of Skid Row. A slightly elevated platform covered most of the stage, with a window cut from the back so audiences could see passers-by as they inspected the shop’s wares. The base of the stage, level with the audience, was decorated as a path in Skid Row, embellished with a trash littered hopscotch court. Although quite detailed, it was disappointing to see this part of the theatre only used twice, as it was an interesting and intimate part of the set that could have been more utilised. Another rarely used set piece came in the form of a building that stood next to the shop, with boarded-up doors and windows. This created an alleyway that added to the atmosphere of Skid Row, but was also under utilised.
Props and Puppet Designer Jess Ferguson had a large task but didn’t miss a single detail. The Audrey II puppets are an essential part of the show and were all incredibly intricate; in all sizes of the puppets, you could see every little detail – from veins on the plant to different coloured specs on the leaves. In “Wskid” and “Ya Never Know”, Seymour was seen holding a larger version of the small potted Audrey II as an arm puppet attached to his jacket with a false arm around the base of the plant. This version of Audrey II had great design and animation but needed a bit more securing as the sleeve of the fake arm kept slipping down, and the arm looked less and less convincing as the scene went on.
Costume Designer Kristan Ford kept costuming true to the 1950s era and the characters’ personalities. Seymour wore his signature glasses and sleeveless jumper, Audrey had her heels and cheetah print jacket, and Mushnik donned his tie and suspenders. The only costumes that felt a little out of place were those of the Urchins, which felt a little too modern compared to the rest of the cast.
Artistic Director Taylor Davidson and Music Director Hayley Marsh made for an excellent pairing. Davidson had actors navigate the stage space and set with ease, blocking actors to enhance the story. It would’ve been nice to see the ensemble more throughout the show, as they only appeared when “needed” and just arrived as soon as they needed to sing.
Marsh manipulated the sound of the cast with skill, tackling the harmonies in the show effectively to build a solid sounding ensemble and killer Chorus. Each of the leading and supporting cast members’ vocal skills seemed to fit excellently with the character they were portraying.
Chris Drummond played Seymour Krelborn, the clumsy and timid boy who grows into a star. Drummond seemed almost made for the role as he tripped and fell across the stage; he brought the sometimes goofy and self-conscious Seymour to life.
Audrey was played by Amanda Harris, who delivered the damaged and anxious girl to the audience with skill. Her characterisation was full of solid choices, from how she walked and navigated the stage,to her clear and sweet voice that stole the audience’s focus as required.
A team of talented cast members also supported this pair. Lonnie Toia played Audrey II, the alien plant with a thirst for blood. With a big booming voice and detailed puppets, Toia showed the audience how intimidating a big plant could be. Skid row’s florist, Mr Mushnik, was played by Kym Brown, a manager who seems to care for his employees until fame and fortune are just in his grasp. Kym’s impressive vocal range allowed her to play Mr Mushnik successfully and portray a compelling and comedic performance. Jackson Wecker stole the show as Orin Scrivello, the sadistic dentist and Audrey’s abusive boyfriend who enjoys bringing people physical pain. Wecker’s presence on stage was uncomfortable to watch; his laugh was the icing on the cake as the entire audience sat in disgust. Wecker has done his job and sold an impressive performance.
The Urchins were a staple in the storytelling for this show. Seen in almost every song, they both narrate and participate in the plot. The trio had vocal chops to boot, with Rhea Basha as Crystal, Storm Fraser as Chiffon, and Manuao Madar as Ronnette.
The ensemble of the show, albeit not seen much, were a good asset to the overall production. A standout included Damien Quick, who was seen slinking around the stage. Little details like Quick’s characterisation lifted the scenes and significantly added to the atmosphere of Skid Row.
‘Little Shop of Horrors’ was an excellent choice for Savoyards to present at the start of their season; bringing the well-loved cult classic to the stage encouraged many old and new fans into the crowd. The strong cast and a killer puppet brought the story to life.
‘Little Shop of Horrors’ performed until Saturday, 12 March 2022 at the Star Theatre, Wynnum. For more information on upcoming productions visit the Savoyards website.