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REVIEW: Little Shop of Horrors (The Loft Theatre)

Since this was my first uneducated visit to Leamington Spa’s local theatre company, I was expecting a very little shop of amateurs, and perhaps a few horrors, but I was delighted to be proven wrong with this professional company’s excellent production.

The seeds of The Little Shop of Horrors were first sewn in 1960 as a Roger Corman movie, filmed on the same set as A Bucket of Blood in the two days remaining before it was due to be taken down. In 1982 the film blossomed into a hugely successful off-Broadway musical adapted by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (who would later go on to pen Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast, and Aladdin), reaching London in 1983. A cult was further cultivated in 1986 with Frank Oz’s film adaptation.

Seymour is an orphan who has been taken in by Mr Mushnik, a florist in New York’s skid row. He secretly pines for his co-worker Audrey, but she is already in the arms of the ‘no good beatnik’ Orin Scrivello (DDS). In order to save their flailing business, they display the strange and interesting new plant Seymour recently acquired. Appearing to be some sort of exotic fly trap, it generates a lot of attention and soon Seymour’s life is filled with new opportunities – but at what cost? Once he learns of his plant’s unusual appetite, Seymour must decide whether fame and fortune are worth their price.

In this production, Chris Gilbey-Smith balances the humour and the emotion of Seymour, and has a great voice reaching heroic heights in the climax of Suddenly Seymour. Nikki Cross is a delicate Audrey with hope of a better world in her eyes – her version of Somewhere That’s Green is slower and more quiet than I remember, but this brings a gentleness that left our audience hanging on every line. Oli Jones has great presence and comic timing as Orin, the demonic dentist.

Amy Barrett, Zoe Hobman and Gemma Mann are particularly excellent as the trio of street urchin narrators – their voices are strong for their Motown-esque harmonies, and they’re always up to something even when they’re not at the centre of the action.

The set is impressive and well lit, the large stage put to good use with the shop interior on one side and the scaffolding of the skid row streets on the other, the excellent band nestled underneath in the ‘Bum’s Note’ music shop. Robin Stokoe’s choreography is grand and also fills the stage; the Skid Row (Downtown) sequence builds to its climax beautifully.

Without giving anything away, Audrey II looked more impressive than I was expecting, particularly in her final form. Voiced by Pete Bucknall and operated by Richard Moore, she is hilariously menacing.

This was my first visit to the Loft Theatre since moving to Leamington Spa two years ago. It’s a delightful 200-seat auditorium with comfortable seats on a hefty rake allowing for great sightlines. The current building opened in 1968, but the Loft Theatre Company who formed in 1922 have been performing on that site since 1943. I’m thrilled to find such a professional company in my neighbourhood and will definitely be returning.

Christopher Jones, Deal J

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