‘Little Shop of Horrors’ was mind-blowing.
With a sold-out season, Spotlight Theatre was bustling with life for the final week of shows at the Halpin Auditorium. ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is one of the last shows of the 2022 season, with Spotlight being a part of the Gold Coast theatre scene for the past 67 years.
First 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. 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 the once unsuccessful store. But when it’s too late, Seymour soon discovers the plant’s true intentions for world domination.
After winning many awards, including Best Musical, ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ has had many productions and tours worldwide and was adapted for film with an alternate ending that strays from the original.
The Haplin Auditorium has an astounding array of lighting equipment; Thanks to lighting designer Jamie Watt, the lighting during the show complimented the story, the set and the characters. An example is during the song “Do-doo”, during the ‘solar eclipse’ instead of the lighting darkening, Watt made the decision to brighten the lighting to essentially ‘blind’ the audience, which worked surprisingly well in comparison to other productions’ lighting choices. “Somewhere that’s Green” was another stand-out in lighting design; Audrey was seen lit with a spotlight, as the rest of the stage was washed by pink, white, and green lighting, which drew all the focus to Audrey and her performance, she took the audience to another world.
The set designed by Clay English and Jamie Watt showcased the quality of theatre Spotlight has to offer to its audiences; the detail and thought put into it really heightened the production. The set featured a revolving stage piece, Musnik’s Skid Row Florists, which rotated to show both the inside of the store and the outside when required. The set also had Audrey’s apartment on stage right, which had a spiral staircase that led to it. Audrey’s apartment also had little details, such as a porch light and a window that would be lit whenever Audrey was inside. The alleys of Skid Row were created with flats that were decorated with graffiti and grime, with trash and oil drums scattered all throughout the stage. A projected backdrop was used throughout the production, it aided in the changes of location and time throughout the show. For the majority of the show, it showed a cityscape that was used to show the change in weather and the passing of time, along with dental X-rays when in the dentists’ surgery.
Props Co-Ordinators Ann and Russel Williams selected props from the large array of properties Spotlight has to offer. Stylistic props were used throughout the show, including 3-D Glasses, futuristic space guns, and a constructed helmet for the dentist Dr Orin, which had LED lights inside it to illuminate his face. Of course, the three Audrey II puppets were what caught the audience’s eye, which were designed and constructed by Will Helmrich, Simone Kryger, Andrew Kassab, and Nada ‘Red’ Kulic. The first two puppets seen were quite similar in size, but the difference was in mobility. The second puppet, which was constructed to appear as Seymour is holding it but actually controlling it, was designed to the full length of Seymours’ arm, giving it incredible movement and animation. The third puppet was quite detailed and used something not conventionally seen in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’, the puppeteers’ legs as the roots, which writhed around the stage during “Feed Me”, giving a convincing portrayal of a plant as well as shocking the audience.
Costumes were designed and constructed by Pina Crisafulli Omeros, Nada ‘Red’ Kulic, Helen Maden. Spotlight has a unique and wide variety of costumes at their disposal; each costume was accurate to the era and was unique to each character and their personality. The main cast costumes went through a transformation to show their increase in wealth throughout the show. The Urchins also went through costume changes when they sung backup, their costumes would reflect the themes of each song. The only costumes the Urchins wore that didn’t seem to fit within the show were futuristic sci-fi outfits and traditional chinese dresses that didn’t seem culturally appropriate for the Urchins to be wearing. There was one more costume that stood out, the final form of Audrey II; The team made a bold desision to have a humanoid form for Audrey II. The jaws of the plant were open with the humanoid Audrey II standing inside, with a large red skirt which opened in the middle to slide characters through to be “eaten”. The shirt was created to look like leaves and vines which spread down the arms of Audrey II, and a large flower headpiece that when Audrey II rested his head in his hands appeared to look like a plant. The only think that seemed awkward in execution of the plant was when the characters were ‘eaten’; Audrey’s death was a beautiful scene but was almost ruined when you could see ‘dead Audrey’ trying to reach through the skirt of the plant to be pulled through by a stage hand.
Jamie Watt both Directed and Choreographed ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and did well to bring this cult-classic to the Haplin Auditorium. With the incredible set and stage space, Watt used every single aspect he could, using the functional grates on the floor, and using the apron of the stage for a pre-show. Watt also created a few silent moments during the show, during ‘Mushnik and Son’ when Mr. Mushnik holds his breath, Watt orchestrated a whole silent comedic scene where Seymour would stare at Mushnik with concern as he slowly leaves the stage, before entering again through whichever entry point Seymour chose for that performance. As a choreographer, Watt created sharp and fun choreography for the Urchins which was very enjoyable to watch, as well as for the ensemble songs for ‘Skid Row (Downtown)’ and ‘Dentist!’ he created witty and clever choreography which made ‘Dentist!’ a standout with it’s comedic choices.
Music Director Peter Laughton handled this exciting score with ease. The Urchins harmonies were crisp and well prepared; the Urchins have most of the harmonies in the show, and the hard work put into it really shined through. The ensemble harmonies were also well rehearsed and were just as great in the moments they were needed.
Benjamin Hambley was the picture-perfect Seymour. Hambley created a socially awkward Seymour with his own little nuances. As the show went on, the audience could really see Seymours mental decline as the guilt took over after the choices he made. Paired with his amazing vocals, Hambley brought his Seymour to life and embodied him with ease.
The secret love of Seymour, Audrey, was played by Hannah Crowther. She brought an Audrey that was fun but serious when needed to the stage. A stand out moment was ‘Somewhere that’s Green’, along with the lighting to isolate Audrey on stage, Crowther brought phenomenal vocals and acting that transported the audience to Audrey’s dream world.
Matt Mckenzie brought Audrey II to life. Off stage, his rich voice complimented his puppet counterpart. Onstage, as the humanoid Audrey II, you could see the cunning scheming face of the plant which added a new level to the character that is not traditionally seen.
Mr Mushnik was played by Rob K, bringing the cunning and greedy Mushnik to the stage. Although his accent faltered a few times, he made a quick and impressive recovery.
Dean Giltinan played the masochistic dentist Orin Scrivello D.D.S. Giltinan brought an intimidating but almost comedic Orin. Their stand out moment of course was ‘Now (It’s Just the Gas)’ which was more comedic but still made the audience uncomfortable.
The Urchins were played by Gabriella Pegler (as Crystal), Shaylee Gear (as Chiffon), and Tori Waiata Aston (as Ronnette). The girls were sassy and fun to watch, and their harmonies were incredible. There were times when a girl would be a bit too sassy which seemed like they were trying to appear as a different race, but other than that, the girls were a tight group that brought an amazing performance.
The ensemble added so much life to the streets of Skid Row. They were seen onstage throughout the performance bringing little details to heighten the overall show. A standout during the show was Naomi Leader, who was the only cast member on stage during the pre-show. She brought a compelling performance of a Skid Row inhabitant, rummaging through bins and rubbish on stage and terrorising the audition with a toy duck.
‘Little Shop of Horrors’ was an excellent choice for Jamie Watt and Peter Laughton to bring to Spotlight Theatre. The strong cast and humanoid Audrey II brought the well-loved cult classic to life.
‘Little Shop of Horrors’ performed until 20 August 2022 at The Haplin Auditorum. For more information visit Spotlight Theatre’s website.