Penrith Musical Comedy Company: Little Shop of Horrors - Review by Daniel Conway
Cult hits are funny in that they can be so well-known but also kind of niche. So many musicals live in this space. They are either inspired by or directly adapted from cult media, like the uber-popular Kinky Boots. Or rather, they exist with a cult following that makes them enduring, like The Last Five Years. Little Shop of Horrors has the distinct honour of being both. The adaptation of the 1960s comedy horror movie, turned stage show, popularised by a movie adaptation, has always occupied a clear space in the world of musical theatre, and it is clear why Penrith Musical Theatre Company has chosen to tackle this cult classic.
The lead role of Seymour Krelborn was played by Sebastian Sabir. This role is difficult in that you need to project a haplessness that can be quite cloying if not done correctly. Sabir had a clear characterisation that hit all of the notes it needed to in order to project this nice guy who "suddenly" has to do bad things. Sabir has a fun physicality and clear commitment to the role that give off an earnestness that never falls into the trap I mentioned earlier. Callista Banks plays the object of Seymour's affection, Audrey. Callista is featured in two of the most well-known songs from the musical, and she does a great job with both. She has a fantastic voice that really suits the role. I was impressed with her accent as well; it is not easy to do such a distinct character voice and not let it slip at all.
Douglas Bryant, as the sociopathic dentist, really stands out. His energy is perfect for the tone of the play and the character, and his scene work with Audrey was very unnerving. It is hard to see anyone other than Steve Martin in that role, but Bryant does a fine job. The less than supportive Mr. Mushnik is played by Simon Peppercorn, who did a good job of projecting a nurturing energy towards Audrey while being wonderfully frustrated with Seymour. Holly Vincent (pulling double duty as choreographer), Shawnee Benton, and Chloe Day are the urchins in this production. They have a great rapport with each other, and you can really tell they worked together to make sure they are in unison and blend vocally.
The botanical sensation and star of the show is, of course, Audrey II, the carnivorous plant that is never satisfied. This role is so large that it requires three people to pull it off. Puppeteer work by Grant Brennan and Tahlia Ransley, and the wonderful voice of Dean McGrath. McGrath's voice is so powerful and smooth that I found myself wishing Audrey II had more songs. Voice acting is hard because you have to inject energy and life where there isn't, and McGrath managed to do just that. But the success of Audrey II is also contributed to by Brennan and Ransley; these two did a great job of manipulating this plant; the movement of the tongue and tendrils really stood out and gave it so much character.
Director Ellie Hart obviously has a love for this show, which is clear in the staging, which is visually effective. The simple set, which makes use of the depth and size of the performance space in Glenmore Park High and the storefront, was impressive. I particularly liked the use of shadows with the storefront signage. Additionally, the costumes were era-appropriate, and everyone on stage looked good. The music was directed by Ben Grey and Fatima De Assis. The ensemble sounded good together; however, I would be remiss for not mentioning the issues with audio that were noticeable, particularly in the finale. Everyone on stage was clearly working their hardest, but vocal lines were missing from the mix, and volume meant that some of the cast couldn't be heard properly.
PMCC's production of Little Shop of Horrors hits all the right notes for a cult classic. I give this show 2.5 carnivorous cuttings out of 5.
Photos courtesy of Neaton Photography and Film