In the West End, the original Menier cast – including Sheridan Smith, Paul Keating, Barry James and Mike McShane – reprise their performances in the West End, with one notable exception. TV impressionist Alistair McGowan, who made his musical debut in December, appearing alongside Judi Dench in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s adaptation of The Merry Wives of Windsor – has taken over from Jasper Britton as sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello.
Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s musical is loosely based on Roger Corman’s popular low-budget 1960 film. Nerdy orphan Seymour (Keating) works in Mr Mushnik’s Skid Row florist shop, along with girl of his dreams Audrey (Smith), who is dating Scrivello. After a solar eclipse, Seymour discovers a peculiar plant with a bloodthirsty appetite, which he names Audrey II. As his infatuation with the real Audrey grows, so does the plant.
The Menier revival – which won this year’s Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Off-West End Production, prior to its current transfer - is directed by Matthew White and designed by David Farley. Other roles in Little Shop of Horrors are played by Jenny Fitzpatrick, Katie Kerr, Melitsa Nicola and Matthew Eames.
The production has choreography by Lynne Page, musical supervision by Caroline Humphris, lighting design by Paul Anderson and sound design by Gareth Owen. It’s presented in the West End by Chocolate Factory Productions, along with co-producers Bob Boyett, Richard Frankel, Steve Baruch, Thomas Viertel, Marc Routh and Stephanie McClelland.
Overnight critics loved the campy, up-tempo, bouncy feel of the musical, and were impressed with the performances of the cast, particularly noting Sheridan Smith and Paul Keating for their fun and cartoony but touching portrayals. Some were slightly less convinced by new cast member Alistair McGowan, and said the sound system was occasionally too overpowering, but they enjoyed the show as a whole and warmed to the central green monster plant, Audrey II, in David Farley’s new design.
- by Caroline Ansdell