One of my favourite musicals, Little Shop of Horrors, is brought vividly to life in the theatre which really is somewhere that’s green – the Open Air Theatre at Regent’s Park.
The Faustian story concerns Seymour (Marc Antolin), a hopeless and hapless assistant in a down-at-heel, failing florists on Skid Row. Both his and the shop’s fortunes take an upturn when he discovers a new breed of plant which he names Audrey 2 (Vicky Voxx), in honour of fellow shop assistant Audrey (Jemima Rooper) who, in turn, fails to realise Seymour’s amorous intentions as she is in a relationship with sadistic dentist Orin (Matt Willis).
The highlight has always been the ever-growing plant, Audrey 2, usually played by an on-stage puppet with an off-stage actor doing the voice. The Audrey 2 increases in size at every appearance following the consumption of another member of the cast. The distinctive feature of this production is that Audrey 2 is made manifest on stage in the shape of drag queen Vicky Voxx. I was wary of this but she triumphs in the role for two reasons. Firstly, Ms Voxx is no shrinking violet and attacks the part and each song with vehemence and gusto. Secondly the combination of make-up, costume and set design brings the carnivorous plant to life with a style and charisma which more than matches the giant puppets we’ve been used to.
March Antolin’s Seymour is suitably nerdy and the ever delightful Forbes Masson is great as florist shop owner Mr Mushnik. Jemima Rooper really captures the pain Audrey feels at her apparently hopeless life and lack of prospects in a truly touching moment in the song Somewhere That’s Green.
I’d like to have seen more made of the open air setting. True the surrounding trees were lit green and swayed menacingly in a stiff breeze, but I felt there was a missed opportunity at the end when it would have been fun to have the vegetation invade the auditorium during Don’t Feed the Plants. I’ll still be happy to see the Jim Henson inspired puppet version of Audrey 2 again, but Vicky Voxx’s powerhouse performance really makes this production unique. A great version of a great musical, packed with fantastic songs.
Little Shop of Horrors is at the Open Air Theatre Regent’s Park until 21 September 2018.