Venue: Altrincham Garrick

The Altrincham Garrick Playhouse resident company are, it must be remembered, amateur.  However, their productions are known throughout the region for their exceptionally high quality and the company’s varied programming and sheer volume of activity is hugely impressive. Standing out each year is their big spring musical and this years production is Little Shop of Horrors, the “gleefully gruesome musical”, which premiered Off-Broadway in 1982 and has remained a popular favourite ever since.

 

It is an unusual choice, bearing in mind that the high profile national tour of the recent West End production has only recently visited the nearby Manchester Opera House to great acclaim but the Garrick company pull it off big style and the production makes for an extremely fun night out.

 

The musical, based on an earlier 1960 low budget movie of the same name, centres around Mushnik’s failing flower shop on Skid Row.  In a desperate attempt to save the business, shop assistant Seymour Krelborn introduces his ‘strange and interesting new plant’ to Mr Mushnik which he names after the object of his affection, the ultimate tart with a heart Audrey.  The scheme works and business booms but little does Seymour know that the plant has a murderous hidden agenda and will let nothing stop it in its quest for world domination. 

 

It is a daft premise but it really works as a musical. Ashman’s script and lyrics are incredibly clever and witty and Menken rolls out one belting tune after another. 

 

In this production the music is provided by a small band under the direction of Mark Goggins. There are some inconsistencies in the balance however which should be addressed and I am not entirely clear how many band members there are as the Garrick, sadly, do not deem them worthy of crediting in the programme.

 

The cast are generally excellent with only David Leathlean as the evil dentist Orin Scrivello letting the side down with the worst diction I have heard in a long time.  Laura Chandler, Stephanie Nyland and Vicky Stott as Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette, the narrators of the piece, make a significant impact with their stunning harmony singing and never ending array of costume changes, which I am sure the wardrobe department had a ball creating. 


The supporting cast work well in their smaller roles and Stuart Monro and Martin Creevy manipulate the plant puppets and provide the voice of Audrey 2 effectively. The two leads, however, steal the show with ease and their performances would not be out of place on a professional stage. Dawn Flint captures Audrey’s longing for something better beautifully and Adam Whittle was simply born to play Seymour.

 

John Cunningham’s direction is simple but effective and he makes highly effective use of Barry Fletcher’s multi-layered yet reasonably basic set, which is then solidly lit by Fiona Hilton.

 

The Garrick is a super little venue producing excellent productions like this one throughout the year for the local community to enjoy at reasonable prices. It is sad to note that the local council are threatening to withdraw its (minimal) funding which is worrying for the future of the company and the venue. It would be a travesty if the community were to lose this excellent company as it is by far the best amateur group in the region and deserves the opportunity to continue producing hugely enjoyable and high quality productions like Little Shop of Horrors.

 

It is only on for a week.  Don’t miss it!


-Malcolm Wallace