You’ll want to Seymour

Mark Whittaker as Seymour with Audrey II in NQOMT's 'Little Shop of Horrors' IMAGE: Photobase NQ

This one is not for the kids.

But if you can get into an M-rated flick without an adult, you’re gonna love it.

We were honoured to sit in on the final dress rehearsal of NQOMT’s Little Shop of Horrors and – despite warning that there were still some technical creases to be ironed out – this show was polished!!
Capital P Polished.
All caps POLISHED.

Premiering off-Broadway in 1982, Little Shop of Horrors has everything you would expect from a film-to-musical adaptation influenced by out-going doo-wop and incoming Motown sounds. It’s all kinds of kitsch, but in the most spectacular way.

The plot follows the story of Seymour Krelborn (Mark Whittaker), a downtrodden green thumb working at a failing flower shop with his with his money-minded boss, Mr Mushnik (Michael Browne) and his secret love, Audrey Fulquard (Judy Higgins-Olsen). The shop’s bad luck turns when word gets out about a strange and exotic plant Seymour has been nurturing, but to keep business booming, Seymour must keep his mysterious plant alive. Of course, there’s just one problem – plant food won’t satisfy this beast!

Judy Higgins-Olsen as Audrey in NQOMT’s Little Shop of Horrors IMAGE: Photobase NQ

Mark Whittaker takes awkward to a whole new level as Seymour – a feat that perfectly illustrates his versatility if you had also seen him in Townsville Choral Society’s RENT last year. His bumbling, love-struck character is easy for the audience to connect with, even as he grapples with an ethical dilemma few others have faced. Mark’s ability to hold a convincing conversation with a character void of facial features is also a testament to his skill as an actor.

Judy Higgins-Olsen is a knock-out as the sweet and sexy Audrey. This show gives Judy plenty of room to work her acting chops and she delivers well beyond expectation – sweet and tender-hearted; gut-wrenchingly vulnerable and wounded; fierce and overtly sexual. Trotting around in teeteringly tall heels, and with her heavily-accented lisp, Judy will make you laugh, cry and fall in love with her.

Audrey’s sadistic boyfriend Orin Scrivello, DDS is played by Lachlan Dalby and his performance is mesmerising (yes, even beyond the leather and muscles). Lachlan Dalby has recently returned to Townsville after studying at NIDA, and it shows. There is a true Hollywood quality to his effortless-yet-manic take on Orin: from beating on his girl until his very giggly demise, Orin truly is the man we hate to love.

Laclan Dalby and Mark Whittacker as Orin and Seymour in NQOMT’s LIttle Shop of Horrors IMAGE: Photobase NQ

Speaking of dislikeable characters, Michael Browne was on point. Michael plays the selfish businessman Mr Mushnik to a T. Michael has expertly wrangled the heavy accent of the time and disappears right into Mr Mushnik (until he disappears for good).

Finally, Audrey II is brought miraculously to life through the combined efforts of Kelly Stone (the Voice) and Jeremiah Pau (The Puppeteer); and the props, set and costume teams. I won’t spoil the surprise, but there is real magic at work here and I found a sense of childlike wonder watching Audrey II grow from a little seedling to something much more menacing.

While there’s not a whole lot of dancing in this musical, the ‘musical’ element is wonderfully carried by the band, which takes pride of place above the main stage, and the Quintet (traditionally a Trio) of doo-woopers made up of Rachel Cairns, Morgan Eldridge, Jill Cason, Cicely Biara and Bree Hodsdon (who’s making her musical debut in Little Shop of Horrors). Together the band and Quintet carry the narrative, with a musical score punctuated by knock-out numbers from the main players and ensemble. With every single performer mic-ed, this show delivers a wall of sound which, under the Vocal Direction of Tony Woodhouse, is phenomenal.

Mention must be made of the terrific props and set work by Chris Ahern, Damien Jackson, Sasha Holmes, Samantha Carter and Ricky Townsend. The team has left no detail to chance – from the big-ticket items including the custom design and engineering of Audrey II and the rotating set, to the tiny little things such as changing pictures on the wall as the shop flourishes (we loved spotting some paintings by Townsville artist Athena Costopoulos). Even the crumpled newspapers that lie on the set were printed with news from the era.

I love the way that Director Alyssa Oliveri worked the band and crew into the show – it’s a fitting tribute to all of the incredibly talented people who often go unsung in theatre.

Michael Browne as Mr Mushnik with The Quintet in NQOMT’s Little Shop of Horrors IMAGE: Photobase NQ

 

I have only one gripe with this show – the ensemble had done so well developing their own characters that I left feeling unsatisfied at not knowing more about every single one. Kee’Ahn Bin Dol’s beautifully sad Freida, Logan Jacobs’ Terry the Twitch, Jonathan Bell’s Pete the Painter, Rachel Martin’s hilarious Bertie and every other character along Skid Row piques the interest as they go about their business, and I was disappointed to find that they didn’t tie into the story more significantly. There’s also a strange bit with a pair of Groucho Marx glasses that misses the mark, but now I’m just nit-picking!

My absolute congratulations to NQOMT and every individual involved with Little Shop of Horrors. This show has had to operate in the shadow of the much-hyped Wicked and while it mightn’t have worked theatre-goers into the same frenzied, ticket-buying fervour that “the hot new thang” did, it deserves the very same levels of hype.

Dark. Funny. Sexy. Plant yourself in the audience!!

Catch NQOMT’s Little Shop of Horrors at the Townsville Civic Theatre from 11 – 14 October 2017. Click here for tickets.

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