I make no apology for the fACTS that I so enjoy coming to see this group’s work. The facilities are limited and the stage is the size of a postage stamp in comparison to other venues, yet the quality of staged production is always of high value with incredible attention to detail, be it costumes, choreography, blocking or casting.
This show is a delight from start to finish. Audrey in the hands of Zoe Denyer has never been so poignantly played, with a lovely vocal and sense of loneliness and isolation permeating throughout. Matching her with vocal style as Seymour is Michael Porter, adding layers of disbelief in his good fortune as the story progresses, exhibiting real anguish at the Faustian choice he has to make regarding the continuing survival of the Audrey 2, expertly and sexily voiced by Amber Spencer, adding an extra nuance to the relationship being a female plant. The duets and solos of these fine vocalists amply suited this musical, as did the harmonies and many of the one-liners from the expanded observer chorus.
The dancing and movement is perfect and the extra ensemble cast do not detract from what is essentially a 12 person musical. The dentist scene was particularly effective in their usage, providing excellent backing to Jiles Boota’s swaggering turn as Dentist Orin. Great characterisation from him and a real feeling of sleaze and bullishness, yet very funny too in his “demise” via the gas mask that he fails to remove.
As the Florist Shop owner and Seymour employer, Tim Searle as Mushnik excelled in the sometimes under used role, making him quite warm and frustrated as opposed to the usual bad tempered almost villain portrayal. The scene where he tries to get Seymour to confess was so well done; Producer Amber Spencer is so clever at devising these little extras. Her work with all the talented minor roles again shows how good she is at getting the best out of the person in a role, be it Lizzie Harden’s Skip Snip, Steven Hunter as Bernstein, the puppetry of Jill Corbett and the fantastic array of costumes (including for the finale everyone in fabulous green), lighting or the excellent vocal harmony work of the singing chorus expanding the usual 3 girl roles into a permanent observant chorus.
I have to talk a little about sound, which for once seemed slightly off balance. The wonderful orchestra sound under Howard Corbett sometimes seemed to swamp the vocals and would have been utterly brilliant in a larger venue. Matters were not helped by the lack of microphone for Seymour at the end of Act 1. The ingenuity of this score is its lyrics and there were times when the anticipated words just could not be heard. For the uninitiated, they missed out on some wonderfully funny lines in places but I am sure this can be easily rectified for the next two shows.
This group put on consistently good shows and their work deserves wider viewing than a local audience. This show really is one of their best, produced with real love for the work and understanding of its wry humour and tip towards a ‘50s timeline. Go see!