When you see a proper, West End show, there are certain things you expect. Powerful singers, enthusiastic musicians, charismatic actors, and amusing props. And yet, right here in the Annex Theatre, SUSU Showstoppers have performed a fantastic version of Little Shop of Horrors which ticks every one of those boxes. With no more than a dedicated cast and a killer plant puppet, they have created a show that everyone should enjoy.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this musical, Little Shop of Horrors stars an orphan named Seymour who works in Mushnik’s Flower Shop with his attractive yet abused co-worker, Audrey. To make business boom, Seymour decides to put a strange plant he discovers on display, which he names Audrey II. However, when he realises that Audrey II needs to eat blood to survive and grow, things take a horrific turn. The tone of the musical was well established from the very beginning, with an effective use of eerie green lighting and a smoke machine.
The parts of Seymour and Audrey were played by the talented Jeremy McCabe and Katie Passey. Passey’s incredible and clear voice was perfect for putting emotion and vulnerability into her character. In particular, her rendition of ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ stood out to me as one of the best sung songs. However, it was the comedic facial expressions of McCabe that stole the show. He portrayed the character with perfect stage presence and tone, which had the entire audience in fits of laughter throughout. His performance alongside Robin Johnson (who played Mr. Mushnik) in the song ‘Mushnik and Son’ was comedic genius. I’m not sure if I’m more impressed by their interaction or the fact that they managed to keep a straight face throughout.
In addition to the leads, the whole cast had brilliant singing voices and accents. It’s easy for a fake American accent to sound incredibly cheesy, but they managed to keep them convincing. With everyone playing their parts so well, it is hard to praise particular individuals, but I was impressed with Sarah Moir’s powerful singing voice, and I applaud Chris Ball’s creepy laugh.
Apart from that song which goes: “Little shop. Little shop of horrors”, I’ve never heard of any other songs from this musical. There’s usually a good reason for this. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised to find that a lot of the songs are catchy and fun, which I’m sure had in part to do with the enthusiastic playing of the band, led by musical director, Sam Dando. I often feel that the band do not always get as much credit as they deserve. This musical would certainly not have been the same without them setting the tone from fun to creepy with just a few notes.
My only criticism with the performance was Audrey II itself. Although the plant looked cool and had an amusing voice and attitude, I could not always hear what was being said or sung over the loud music.
However, considering that opening night is meant to be the night when the show is not at its best, I have no doubt that it will just get better and better as it goes along. I have no doubt that everyone who sees this will enjoy some good laughs and leave humming the infectious songs.
Little Shop of Horrors is being performed at the Annex Theatre from 5th to 8th February at 7:30pm, with a matinee show at 2:30pm on Saturday 8th February.