Maverick Life

Maverick Life

Review: A little shop of hilarity

Review: A little shop of hilarity

There’s only one show in the world where the actors have to make sure they’re not upstaged by a plant. It’s ‘The Little Shop of Horrors’, where a gloriously colourful growing, singing and chewing plant could put timid actors in the shade. By LESLEY STONES.

There’s no chance of that for the excellent crew assembled in this KickstArt production, with the great cast delivering a splendid feast of song and dance, humour and a touch of tender romance too.

It’s enormous fun and pure sci-fi schlock, brilliantly written in the style of the 1950s. The first smiles come as soon as the screen pulls back to reveal the stage set, with a couple of bums sprawled out in the trash on Skid Row and a florist’s shop set back above them. After that you don’t stop smiling, particularly if you listen to the song lyrics that are bursting with wit as well as carrying a good tune.

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Comic actor Alan Committie and straightman Michael Richard lead the cast in this old show that’s still bursting with merriment. Committie plays Seymour, the woebegone florist’s assistant who comes across an unknown species of plant after a solar eclipse. He nurtures it carefully, by discovering that the alien entity has a thirst for human blood.

I’d expected Committie to ham it up flamboyantly, but he stays true to the hamfisted Seymour and delivers an unexpectedly sensitive performance. His singing voice is very credible too, showing a side of Committie that’s often lost when he’s chasing the laughs.

Richard’s singing voice isn’t something you’d want to rely on, but he’s excellent in the role of the threadbare Jewish florist trying to make a buck on skid row.

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There’s a lovely danced duet between Committie and Richard when the wily florist tries to secure his suddenly blooming future by formally adopting his orphaned assistant.

The love interest comes in the shapely and astonishingly squeaky Aubrey, played by Candice van Litsenborgh. Her breasts arrive on stage long before the rest of her, and her shrill voice lingers after her departure. She’s a ditzy delight, but van Litsenborgh gives her far more substance than a mere cartoon caricature.

The other main character is her boyfriend Orin, a sadistic dentist. (Is there any other kind?) Zak Hendrikz plays the part with a swagger and an unlikely touch of camp rather than machismo. He carries it off well, and his facial expressions when he starts snorting his laughing gas are pure genius.

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Adding to the action are the three doo-wop singers, cheekily named Chiffon, Crystal and Ronette, in homage to the popular girlie groups of the era. Pay attention to the lyrics because they’re bristling with clever twists, like the moment they describe the leather-clad motorbiking dentist as the Leader of the Plaque.

Then there’s the plant, of course, a rich, rippling, growing creation that adds more gaudy colour to an eye-popping set that’s already bursting with vibrancy. Set designer and plant-daddy Greg King has done a superb job with both.

The Little Shop of Horrors was written by Howard Ashman with music by Alan Menken, based on a low-budget comedy horror film of 1960 that sent up B-grade Sci-Fi movies.

This version by Durban-based KickstArt won nine Durban Theatre Awards in 2009. Six years later it’s back with the same creative team led by director Steven Stead, and it deserves to devour some more awards. DM

The Little Shop of Horrors runs at Montecasino Theatre until August 9. Tickets from www.montecasino.co.za or Computicket.

www.lesleystones.co.za

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