Little Shop of Horrors

Jun 22 2017 | By More

★★★☆☆    Midsummer fun

The Studio: Wed 21 – Sat 24 June 2017
Review by Thom Dibdin

There’s bundles of fun and bonkers B-movie mayhem in Little Shop of Horrors, the debut musical from TBC Productions, which is at the Studio on Potterrow to Saturday.

Adapted from a Roger Corman movie from the late fifties, Little Shop has a wickedly knowing book and lyrics from Howard Ashman and a solidly rock-driven score from Alan Menken. In terms of delivering those elements of the production, the company hit the spot.

Audrey II with Charlie Munro. Pic: Sam Ezra Young

The fear-of-the-other plot involves Seymour, a geeky florist’s assistant with a penchant for finding strange and unusual plants. But the carnivorous plant he discovers during a mysterious solar eclipse turns out to have unusual tastes and an ability to communicate with humans that would have Prince Charles all in a tizz.

Thomas McFarlane has been building a name for himself in local amateur musicals for two or three years now. Here, he consolidates his position as he takes on the role of Seymour, playing it relatively straight as he names the new plant Audrey II after his luscious fellow shop assistant, Audrey.

Vocally he has the voice to role, even if he does allow some of the more tongue-twisting lyrics to get the better of him. Seymour’s yearning for Audrey is well put too, as the plant helps him find fame and media exposure. And when the plant starts manipulating the punters – not to mention the shop owner Mr Mushnik – McFarlane is never over the top as Seymour becomes embroiled in an increasingly ludicrous situation.

pouting sexiness

Fiona Dawson is superb as Audrey, delivering just the right amount of pouting sexiness – outrageous in her outfits but not immodest. Audrey’s lack of self-esteem is expressed both vocally (her bittersweet Somewhere That’s Green, really sets out the character in terms of her ultra-conventional dreams) and in a performance which allows parody in at the fringes.

Fiona Dawson with Rachel Aedy, Mia Oudeh and Sarah Quinn. Pic: Sam Ezra Young

There is never any danger of Charlie Munro allowing parody to settle at the fringes of his portrayal of Mr Mushnik the florist. Everything is over-the-top as he plays up the Skid Row locale of the shop, the lack of customers and his Seymour’s butter-fingered exploits, helping to push the outrageous along with logical ease.

Stephen Smyth displays the best vocal chops on the stage, with a voice that is as powerful as his portrayal of Audrey’s vicious boyfriend Orin. And while he plays the sadism of his vocation as a dentist for laughs, consulting director Janice Bruce should be applauded for reigning him back in the moments of interaction with Audrey which indicate the depth of his misogyny.

The whole thing is framed by a trio of Skid Row street urchins, who provide a Greek Chorus in the tones of a Sixties bubble-gum pop girl group. The quality of the trio shines through, particularly when overcoming a couple of opening-night sound problems.

richness and depth

Individually, Sarah Quinn as Ronnette has a strong voice when singing out, although there is not the same confidence to her more intimate lines. Rachel Aedy has the biggest voice of the three, hitting the high notes with real polish, while Mia Oudeh has a nuance to her delivery that adds a richness and depth.

Thomas McFarlane. Pic: Sam Ezra Young

But it is as a group that the trio lives, and they keep the whole thing moving along nicely. Bruce’s choreography is appropriate, but the moves are not always as synchronised as they might be. Although that is in keeping with the rather rough and ready staging.

Design-wise, Audrey II is the regular plant which comes with the rights to stage the production. Puppeteer Ruth Brown and voice-of-the-plant Chris McLeish work reasonably well together, although lack of rehearsal time might be an issue here.

MD and Steven Segaud has mustered an impressive band and there’s no lack of depth, vibrancy or ability in the delivery of the music. The Studio is something of a barn to play, however, and the sound is not always as it might be.

Entertaining stuff, all round, and a suitably outrageous and solid production of this somewhat zany favourite. This ensemble company looks to be working well together. It will be interesting to see how things develop with more backstage input.

Running time: two hours (including one interval)
The Studio at Festival Theatre, 22 Potterrow, EH8 9BL
. Phone booking: 0131 529 6000
Wednesday 21 – Saturday 24 June 2017.
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinee Saturday: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details:

TBC Productions on Facebook: TBCProductionsEdinburgh.

Stephen Smyth. Pic: Sam Ezra Young


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