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Theatre Review: Little Shop of Horrors @ Norwich Playhouse

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It can be quite intimidating to adapt a show with a cult classic status. What if you don’t live up to what the fans have come to expect? Regional productions quite clearly lack the resources of Hollywood adaptations, and there are just some things you can’t do onstage that they can get away with on screen.

However, despite the odds, Sound Ideas have delivered a production that lives up to the hype and thoroughly entertains.

When your cast has voices as good as theirs, you can’t really go wrong. Solid in ensemble numbers and fantastic in solos, every number was as good as the last. (‘Somewhere That’s Green’ has never sounded so good, I’m in awe of Charly Nash’s voice). The urchins were equally matched in talent alongside the protagonists, and Jon Bennett as Mr Mushnik was hilarious. The American accents were a tad wobbly to start, but once they’d warmed up and we were used to the show, they were seamless.

Even the staging of the puppet worked well, an element that could easily have been disappointing given Jim Henson’s involvement in the much-loved movie version. Sean Bray is listed as the “plant puppeteer” in the programme, so whatever they were doing behind the scenes worked wonders. From our spot in the audience, there appeared to be people inhabiting the plant’s roots during the final few numbers - especially the show’s ‘Finale Ultimo’ (‘Don't Feed the Plants’) - which looked great from the crowd. The voice of the plant (Joe Betts) did a marvellous job inhabiting such a large persona, providing all the delicious malice and venom required.

In terms of the sets, Sound Ideas employed the use of a rotating stage, upon which the Florists and Skid Row were built. This worked well, with the stagehands able to adjust the size of Audrey II whilst non-florists scenes were taking place, even though the behind-the-scenes workings were occasionally thrown into the spotlight when the set required more legwork for its rotation (but this only added to the charm of the production). The whole show made use of a 60s aesthetic reminiscent of the movie adaptation (though a bit less heavy handed), with the urchins decked up in a number of delightful outfits throughout, including a spectacular light up poodle skirt.

Overall, Sound Ideas’ production of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ turned out to be a great example of the wonderful acting regional theatre has to offer, so if you’re in the Norwich area in February I’d definitely recommend checking out their upcoming production of ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ (details of which are available here).

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