A musical stage adaptation inspired by the flimsy Horror B-movies of the 1950’s doesn’t immediately highlight itself as a commercial success; however, Howard Ashman & Alan Menken’s pop-rock musical has become a modern classic.

As a by-product of its success, the show has seen many incarnations over the years including many runs on Broadway and in London’s West End. Most recently the Menier Chocolate Factory produced an extremely popular production in which now musical starlet Sheridan Smith received great critical acclaim.

The production values of Peter Rowe’s adaptation for Birmingham REP surprisingly surpass the Menier’s performance in its bright and brash design by Mark Walters featuring comic book dimensions and seamless transitions. Rowe’s direction is also cleverly comical in the way the characters constantly remind the audience of the heightened reality of the piece through their caricatured performances.

Stealing the show in their portrayal and extreme vocal acrobatics are the three urchins, Chiffon, Ronette, and Crystal. The narrators of the piece truly prove they are the stars of the show in the way they captivatingly drive the narrative supported with their great execution of the punchy choreography and the manner in which they belt out the many opportunities Menken provides to shine in his poppy score.

Shirley Darroch is a fine Audrey in her quirky performance and also works hard to ensure the audience is on her side as the heroine of the piece. James Haggie’s Seymour sits well against Darroch’s Audrey; however, he is sometimes overshadowed by the action and the superior performances around him.

The vast majority of the cast also take part, at some point or another, in the orchestra situated on a balcony at the rear of the stage thus bringing the actor/musician genre into the mix. However, the point of this is never particularly explained or exploited, leaving one expecting a little more in the exploration of the fact that the characters are also playing as part of the band.

Having seen many productions of this wonderfully kitsch musical over the years it is easy to call this one of the best; even if the actor/musician element is not explored to its full potential.

- Ben Wooldridge