One of the defining qualities of Kilworth House Theatre productions is their simple pleasure in existing. The venue might only have opened in 2007, the audiences might still be finding their way to this quiet Leicestershire backwater, but every production the creative team turn out is marked with this same boisterous love for what they’re doing.
After reviving the inaugural production of The Pirates of Penzance earlier in the summer, director Mitch Sebastian and his musical oppo Matthew Freeman have turned to a much more recent but no less popular choice, Little Shop of Horrors.
The Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical from 1982 takes the plot of Roger Corman’s 1960 schlock-horror B-movie and weaves it into a toe-tapping show of black humour, catchy songs and sparky characters.
And with a versatile and clever set from Sean Cavanagh, a talented five-piece band and a spectacular (if temperamental) man-eating plant courtesy of designer Fiona Viccars, it’s a production that exploits all the dark and twisted humour of the words and lyrics.
Performances are strong throughout, with Stuart Neal superb as Seymour, the no-hope florist’s assistant on Skid Row whose chance discovery of a mystery plant leads to the mayhem that follows. Joanna Woodward is ditzy and delightful as his love interest Audrey, while Kraig Thorber makes a great cameo out of the moderately thankless character of the shop owner Mushnik.
Steven Serlin gets the chance to show off a multitude of skills as the evil dentist Orin and a host of other minor characters, while Ako Mitchell (voice) and David Pendlebury (manipulation) turn the plant, Audrey II, into a comic monster of epic proportions.
There are odd quibbles. With such a powerful set-up at their disposal, for instance, it should be possible for the sound engineers to make the all-important vocals rather more audible than they are at certain moments, and there could be some tightening up to be done in the lighting and technical departments.
But as MD, Freeman helms the performance effectively from a vantage point high above the stage, and Sebastian’s sure touch as a choreographer helps to keep things moving swiftly and efficiently along. Between them they ensure another success in the impressive line of Kilworth House triumphs.