LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Wednesday 26th October, 2016
Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s classic musical crops up like a hardy perennial and it’s always worth a revisit. Ashman’s lyrics are clever and witty, while Menken’s score is bursting with energetic, catchy tunes. It’s a combination that proves irresistible and this touring production from Sell A Door Theatre Company serves the material superbly.
Sam Lupton gives a star turn as nerdy flower shop assistant Seymour whose botanical tinkering leads to a Faustian pact with a mean, green mother from outer space. Lupton is in excellent voice and makes us care about his Seymour. Stephanie Clift is sweet as bubbly shop girl Audrey, a damsel in distress who can also belt out a number. Her ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ is a highlight, as is her duet with Lupton, ‘Suddenly, Seymour’. Audrey’s abusive dentist boyfriend Orin Scrivello shows TV talent show star Rhydian can also act – he seems to be having a lot of fun and, of course, he gets to show off his impressive vocal stylings. He gives a highly charged performance – he’s a gas! Paul Kissaun entertains as the kvetching shop owner Mr Mushnik – there’s more than a hint of Reb Tevye here! – while Neil Nicholas gives carnivorous plant Audrey II a deliciously dark chocolate soulful sound. The plant is a sinister, looming presence, a reckoning that has to be faced.
Sasha Latoya, Vanessa Fisher and Cassie Clare form a formidable trio, acting as a kind of Greek chorus to the action and keeping the 60s soul groove going. Musical director Dustin Conrad and the band are the heart driving the show, pumping energy from start to finish.
Director Tara Louis Wilkinson gives us fun with moments of comic horror – the gore is hinted at rather than depicted. David Shields’s design adds to the heightened, cartoony feel of the piece but I find some of the lighting cues need to be tighter – this was the show’s first night in this venue so I’ll let them off!
The show has currency in today’s world of fears of genetically modified plants that could devastate life as we know it. Above all, though, this is enormous fun delivered by a company that is a cut (or should that be ‘cutting’?) above the rest.
Sam Lupton and Stephanie Clift decide to seymour of each other (Photo: Matt Martin)
Leave a comment | tags: Alan Menken, Belgrade Theatre, Cassie Clare, Coventry, David Shields, Howard Ashman, Little Shop of Horrors, Neil Nicholas, Paul Kissaun, review, Rhydian, Sam Lupton, Sasha Latoya, Sell A Door theatre company, Stephanie Clift, Tara Louis Wilkinson, Vanessa Fisher | posted in Review, Theatre Review
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Tuesday 15th October, 2013
Craig Revel Horwood directs this new touring production of the classic musical and shows us exactly why it is a classic musical. His production has a twist – the cast play instruments on stage, a trick that was all the rage a few years back (I remember a particularly fine Mack and Mabel) but here it fits in with the action almost seamlessly: the violins, guitars, flutes and clarinets are the more portable instruments but after a while you don’t notice that one of Tevye’s daughters is lugging a cello around with her. The cast prove themselves as quadruple threats: they act, sing, dance AND play instruments. Everyone else in musical theatre better up their game.
The first half –as long as a feature film but doesn’t seem it- establishes Tevye, his family and the community of Russian Jews, and is rich with warmth and humour – most of which stems from the wise-cracking Tevye (Paul Michael Glaser – yes, that’s right: STARSKY himself!). Well-known songs keep on coming: Tradition, Matchmaker, If I Were A Rich Man – the richness of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s score offsets the poverty of the characters. Sunrise, Sunset is absolutely beautiful. Gradually, cracks appear in Tevye’s world and his adherence to tradition is challenged, stretched and contorted, as each of his eldest daughters pairs off with young men not of his choosing. Also, pressure from the outside world increases and while the disruption of a wedding at the end of the first act is little more than the overturning of a couple of stools and tables by a mob of two, the threat is established.
The second act is more about the deconstruction of Tevye’s way of life, at home and at large, as his daughters fly the nest and the community disbands. Still, the sense of humour prevails with some of the funniest lines coming at moments of suffering.
As Tevye, Paul Michael Glaser is magnificent, wholly inhabiting the role and making it his own. Karen Mann as wife Golde is very strong and touching in a character part and I particularly liked Claire Petzal as daughter Chava, Liz Kitchen as the matchmaker and Jon Trenchard as Motel. I could go on and list the entire company but really you should go out and catch the show yourself.
As you’d expect from Revel Horwood, the choreography is something to behold, using peasant dances and Cossack moves. There is a dream sequence that is a lot of fun, a moment of high camp in the otherwise dreary setting – Diego Pitarch’s set centres around the homestead which rotates and opens out like a ramshackle doll’s house. The costumes remind us of the period, although the theme of people being dispossessed of their homelands and forced to become refugees remains all too current. Perchik’s revolutionary teachings also have relevance in Broken Britain: “In this world it is the rich who are the criminals”, and even Tevye observes “our old ways were once new” – a message for conservatives everywhere who are resistant to change.
There are the odd moments when everyone dons a false beard to join in with the dancing and Paul Kissaun’s otherwise excellent Lazar looks a bit too much like Hagrid, but on the whole this is a fine-looking, great-sounding production of a show that remains as funny, touching, enjoyable and moving as it ever was, plucking at your heartstrings.
The fiddler on the roof is a metaphor for all of us: life is precarious but we try to scratch out our own tune.
Leave a comment | tags: Claire Petzal, Craig Revel Horwood, Diego Pitarch, Fiddler on the Roof, Grand Theatre Wolverhampton, Jerry Bock, Jon Trenchard, Karen Mann, Liz Kitchen, Paul Kissaun, Paul Michael Glaser, review, Sheldon Harnick, Starsky and Hutch, theatre review | posted in Theatre Review
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Stafford Festival Shakespeare, Stafford Castle, Thursday 11th July, 2013
Using the remains of the castle as a backdrop, the stage nestles into the bailey’s slopes and dips with a simple evocation of the forest and the palace of Theseus. Elegant pagodas are dotted around, the largest of which serves as a bandstand; as the audience arrive, the Mechanicals treat us to a light-hearted concert of Gilbert & Sullivan numbers. The setting is Edwardian and a little bit colonial but director Peter Rowe doesn’t labour the point. By keeping things simple, he allows the comedy of Shakespeare’s script to hold centrestage, proving you don’t need gimmicks and ‘clever’ reinterpretations to make a production accessible and effective.
Quite simply, it’s one of the funniest Dreams I’ve seen in a long while.
The ensemble of four young lovers is intensely presented. Hilarious when they’re under the influence of Oberon’s love-juice (sic) and rowdy when their passions are aroused, this quartet demonstrate physical comedy that belies the elegance and formality of their period costumes. Jennifer Greenwood is a fireball of a Hermia, contrasting with Georgina White’s neurotic Helena. Eamonn O’Dwyer is a poised, slightly stuffy Demetrius but it is Craig Fletcher’s dashing Lysander who gets most of the laughs.
As you’d expect, the Mechanicals are delightful. An affable bunch directed by Phylip Harries’s Quince, they prepare their production of Pyramus & Thisbe in the woods. Interestingly and very effectively, their version is a cod operetta, continuing the G & S motif. It works brilliantly, thanks to Greg Palmer’s musical direction and composition. James Haggie’s Thisbe is a scream, Paul Kissaun’s Lion is adorable (such a contrast between this actor’s Snug the joiner and his Egeus!) but of course, it is Bottom the weaver who dominates. Eric Potts shows himself to be a wonderful Shakespearean clown, stepping outside his customary role as pantomime dame. His Bottom is rounded, cheeky and pert.
Simone James is aloof as Hippolyta and graceful as Titania, followed by a troupe of fairies; the otherworldly aspects of the production are simply and stylishly achieved; the overall effect is magical. Robert Fitch’s Oberon is more commanding than his Theseus, but then the fairy king has mischief to be done. His servant Puck, for me, steals the show. Lanre Malaolu gives an excitable Puck, a ball of pent-up energy, a nifty little mover with some fine comic playing.
A dream of a Dream, then. Already I’m looking forward to hearing about next year’s production.
Eric Potts and Phylip Harries indulge in some pre-show operetta
Leave a comment | tags: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Craig Fletcher, Eamonn O'Dwyer, Eric Watts, Georgina White, Greg Palmer, James Haggie, Jennifer Greenwood, Lanre Malaolu, Paul Kissaun, Peter Rowe, Phylip Harries, review, Robert Fitch, Simone James, Stafford Castle, William Shakespeare | posted in Theatre Review