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Little Shop of Horrors

by on 19 October 2017

Monsters in Unchartered Waters

Little Shop of Horrors

by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman

Hounslow Light Opera Company at Hampton Hill Theatre until 21st October

Review by Eleanor Marsh

There is in the headline to this review a dichotomy; Hounslow Light Opera Company is best known for its productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.  They have, of course, strayed from this genre occasionally (a memorable Anything Goes and The Baker’s Wife both spring to mind), but have not, to my mind ever strayed as far from their comfort zone previously as they do this week at Hampton Hill Theatre.    Little Shop of Horrors is so far removed from G&S that it is a wonder that this group attempted to produce it at all.  That they do so with some success is remarkable.

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As the two star crossed lovers, Seymour and Audrey; Jack Walford and Johanna-Marie D’Oyly Chambers are very well cast.  Jack Walford demonstrates exactly the right level of geek, is believable and has a singing voice that is pleasant to listen to.  Johanna-Marie’s singing is delightful, especially in the Somewhere That’s Green number, possibly the best-known song in the show.  She works hard to portray Audrey’s vulnerability, but is very obviously a singer feeling her way through an acting role.  Where there is a tune involved Audrey becomes a three -dimensional tragic heroine; where there is not she loses some depth of character.

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The supporting characters fare less well in this production, mainly because of a lack of clear diction.  Tony Cotterill’s Mushnik is suitably comic and the “3 Degrees/Supremes” trio of Chiffon, Ronette and Crystal sing in beautiful harmony, but often their lyrics are lost.  With the pedigree of HLOC’s singers I am minded to think that this is an issue with sound design rather than the individual performers, but whatever the reason it is a shame that so much of the narrative (as provided by this most Motown of Greek choruses) is lost as the overall musical sound is so good.  Michael Greatorex is obviously having a lot of fun as Orin the sadistic dentist made famous by Steve Martin in the movie of the show.  A little less caricature would have made this character truly chilling.  And again better diction or sound quality (whichever is to blame) at the beginning of Dentist ! would have guaranteed a belly laugh from the audience where there were only titters.

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The real star of this production is the unseen – but certainly not unsung – John Furlong as the voice of Audrey II.  It is always a treat to see “the voice” in the flesh and it was a real pleasure to see John receive an excellent ovation, which was richly deserved.

The perennial problem of what directors  do with the wider ensemble for a show where there is little or nothing written for them was managed very well by director Bill Compton, who decided not to people the stage with unnecessary bodies but to instead bring on the “chorus” when there was need of them.  And at these moments the company really came into its own demonstrating the excellent part singing and chorus work for which it is known.

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Musical Director Lee Dewsnap has put together an excellent band and the show has a good period look and feel to it.  This show was undoubtedly a trip into unchartered waters for HLOC and they should be pleased and satisfied that they have pulled it off and succeeded in delivering a good evening’s entertainment.

Eleanor Marsh

October 2017

Photgraphs by Jo Jo Leppinck for Handwritten Photography.

From → Musicals, Reviews

One Comment
  1. My school did Little Shop of Horrors and it was such a well-done production. While I am not a big fan of Little Shop of Horrors, it is not a bad show

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