Little Shop of Horrors: The Trend of Dark Musicals

After Heathers: The Musical’s run in early August, it would not be a surprise if there was a sudden trend towards more darkly comic stories on the stage. The International House Theatre Group seems to have continued this trend with their production of The Little Shop of Horrors, directed by Karolina Judd. Little Shop of Horrors is arguably the originator of a sub-genre in musicals. The original musical, which itself is based of a horror film from 1960, was a collaborative effort from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who you may know from their work with Walt Disney Studios. The 1986 production starring Rick Moranis and Steve Martin is perhaps the most well-known incarnation of the musical.

The story of Little Shop of Horrors centres around Seymour, a timid florist working in a flower shop in a poor neighbourhood, with his boss Mushnik and the love of his life, Audrey. Seymour is taking care of a plant of cosmic origins that blooms when it feeds on human blood and flesh. The plant – named Audrey II or Two-ee – soon comes to life as a foul-mouthed crooner, who promises Seymour everything that he could ever desire; all Seymour has to do is keep feeding her (or is it him?).

While the majority of the musical numbers were memorable and enjoyable, special kudos should be given to the particularly emotional of “Somewhere that’s Green”. Audrey, played by Irene Wessels, and her relationship with Seymour is the emotional core of the story. It was best encapsulated in this signature song. The main cast were enjoyable to see on stage, and gave overall strong performances. Aaron Oshlack made Seymour an endearing lead character. His chemistry with Wessels was adorable, and it was easy to want to see Seymour and Audrey make it to the end. Andrew Waddell induced plenty of laughs as the opportunistic Mushnik who still cares for his employees in his own way.

The most memorable onstage presence was Orin Scrivello, the dentist who takes just a little too much pleasure from the pain he inflicts. As abusive and cruel as he is to Audrey, Adrian Go’s performance made him charismatic and fun to see on stage. Of course, it would be remiss not to mention the true star of the production, or rather, stars. Bringing Audrey II to life on stage was a two-person performance between Vaibhav Sinha, the puppeteer, and Hugo Van Buuren, who provided the voice. Their combined efforts made Audrey II stand out in the best way, and not only because the puppet took up a huge part of the stage.

The Mushnik flower shop was the prominent set throughout the play. Given the size of the Audrey II puppet that eventually occupies the space, it makes sense that other sets or scene locations, such as the dentist’s office or the streets of Skid Row are given comparatively fewer sets and props to indicate the change in scenery. I wondered if the size of the flower shop set and Audrey II also affected the choreography. Musicals are generally known for their expressive and dynamic movements, especially during the song-and-dance sequences. The choreography performed by the ensemble dancers seemed restrained, as though the set limited the freedom of their movements. As a result, the potential for energy and dynamic movement in the dances was diminished.

Overall, IHTG’s production of Little Shop of Horrors was a fun and memorable show for the right reasons. Watching the performance, it was clear that the group was passionate about the show and were having as much fun performing it as the audience had watching it.

Naureen Fatima Hossain

International House Theatre Group’s production of Little Shop of Horrors ran from the 16th-18th of August in the Union House Theatre.

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