Saturday, 9 June 2018

Little Shop Of Horrors - The Waterside Theatre, Manchester

The Manchester College's students (aged 16 - 18) performed their end of school year Musical this afternoon in their main theatre, The Waterside Theatre in the Sheens Simon Building on Chorlton Street, Manchester.  - a place I have walked down may a time but never noticed the spaces - and, this week, plays resident to the phenomenal cult musical that is Little Shop of Horrors (book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by the genius that is Alan Menkin - known for his work on endless Disney classics, and others).

One of my all-time favourite shows, since I sang one of the show-stopping songs with a choir in secondary school, the students of The Manchester College’s Musical Theatre course did it justice. With the extremely well-cast Sam Fisher as the leading man Seymour, he is a joy to watch and it is clear that he has spent every opportunity, in rehearsal and elsewhere, he has had to perfect the role. For me, he is the star (in character and vocally)!

Ably matched by leading lady Khiah Joyce (alternate Abigail Bright who shares the part throughout the run) as hapless, naive and vulnerable Audrey, they work together in Mushnik’s flower shop in Skid Row. Business is lousy for the shop owner (played well and with enthusiasm by Kai Lewis) until they put a ‘strange and interesting’ plant, that Seymour has been working on, on display in the window. Suddenly life changes and business is booming, Seymour becomes famous and popular and seeks to make his feelings known to long-term love interest and colleague Audrey, who is dating a ‘semi-sadist’ dentist in Orin Scrivello D.D.S (well-captured by Ryan Coe, who doubles or quadruples up as other cameos) who gets a thrill from inflicting pain on others and has an addiction to laughing gas. Things don’t end well and, as Seymour’s world-rule-scheming talking plant, affectionately named Audrey II (voiced by Francesca and well choreographed/controlled), grows to a size beyond control, slowly Seymour is forced to give in to its demanding diet.

With an opening to set the bar high, it is a delight to hear the sounds of Supremes-styled Ronnette (Christine Osei), Chiffon (Livinga Baker/Chidochemoyo) and Crystal (Isabel Rubio/Ashleigh Saxon) as they provide ‘harmonious’ backing to some of the show’s soundtrack, before ending the show. Harry Warburton plays a radio interview, wino and Chang (from the song Da-Doo) and forms part of the talented ensemble who execute the choreography and help to enhance street scenes very well.

With a few (very few) out of tunes moments, this group should be extremely proud of themselves. To put this quality of show on with such a limited budget with the props team’s amazing skill and well-thought-out set, with the majority of the production arts team being students too, is outstanding. The small band, lead by college tutor (sadly I have no names of the production team in the programme), were good but I would have liked more punchy ends to some of the songs so the audience didn’t have to struggle with when to clap. I get this can help with fluidity of scenes but I don’t think that is what was intended.

In short, if you get chance to see a show in this brilliant performance space, please do not pass up the opportunity. You will laugh, tap and sing along and enjoy a great night out. Well done to all involved.

Reviewer - John Kristof
on - 7/6/18

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