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REVIEW: Little Shop of Horrors (The Loft Theatre)

It’s a world of hobos, deadbeats and down-and-outs. They slouch along the walls, crawl around the sidewalks, litter the street with the debris of human drudgery.

And with opening lyrics belted out in true Motown fashion by a pulsating girls’ trio, the Loft stage roars into life for the zaniest cult musical of them all, a story of innocent young love, the corrupting power of ambition and a relentlessly growing plant that devours people.

We’re on Skid Row, magnificently realised in all its dog-eared splendour on a Loft stage which has never looked so impressively large. Here our three-girl chorus, equally magnificent in the hands of Zoe Hobman, Amy Barrett and Gemma Mann, propel us into the world of sadsack Seymour who works in a rundown florist’s shop, dabbles in plants and adores his fellow worker Audrey.

The show’s main challenges run from the physical – how to achieve a wicked-looking plant that constantly grows and vocally demands to be fed humans – to the theatrically artistic – how to keep us fond of a leading man who succumbs to the need to provide such banquets.

They are met full-on in Tim Willis’s splendid production with the mouth and jaw of the giant plant being cleverly manipulated (Richard Moore) and its voice issuing forth in hip carnivorous style (Pete Bucknall). Seymour’s well-intended dithering and moral decency are achieved with skill and insight by Chris Gilbey-Smith as he faces the dilemmas of conscience on a monster scale.

The sharp wit and comedy of this irresistible sci-fi spoof are underscored by some great musical contrasts. Loud, belting rock is epitomised by Oli Jones’s richly funny dentist thug while teasingly tender melodies enable Seymour and his beloved Audrey to dream of a better life in some other world.

In the latter role, the multi-talented Nikki Cross once again shows why she is steadily acquiring the mantle of a local musical star, her ditzy Audrey interacting beautifully in a variety of different-paced duets with Seymour.

It’s a production which fairly buzzes with vitality. It incorporates kinky sex, sadism, masochism, blood-letting and sensationalism.

But all with tongue lodged firmly in cheek. And all in the best possible taste…

Peter McGarry

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