The Little Shop of Horrors, staged at St Brendan's Community School recently
Ever since it premiered in 1982, 'Little Shop of Horrors' has scarified legions of fans. The sci-fi musical comedy by the legendary team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken is likely performed somewhere in the world at any given time. However, it was the turn of the students of St Brendan's Community School, Birr last week.
The production had a stellar cast of students including James Corrigan as the nerdy Seymour, Saoirse Lalor as ditzy Audrey, William Holmes as shop owner, Mr Mushnik, and the utterly incomparable Christopher Masterson as Orin, Audrey's cruel boyfriend. Other outstanding performances were given by Brid Connors as the voice of Audrey II.
Funny, nutty and sad, it's a show about falling for (sometimes into) the wrong guy or the wrong vegetable, but with doo-wop and gonzo puppetry. It's also a story of a mysterious, blood thirsty plant that nefariously breathes life into a failing Skid Row flower shop and is a cautionary tale about greed and over-reach.
And, for those of you who don't know here's a synposis of what happens: Nerdy Seymour buys a plant from a Chinese guy in the middle of a total ecilpse of the sun and brings it back to the Skid Row floral shop where he has been fortunate enough to work ever since the owner, Mr Mushnick, took him off the streets. Seymour is in love with Audrey, who's in an abusive relationship with Orin Scravello, the sadistic dentist. The plant, a talking Venus flytrap like species of shrubbery, has a penchant for human blood and grows through the show. The plant, Audrey II, is so unique and unusual it makes Seymour and the flower shop where he works famous.
So famous, in fact, that Mr Mushnik, the owner, adopts Seymour in fear he'll lose his good fortunate without him. In the middle of his rise to fame, Seymour professes his love for Audrey (the human) while Audrey II (the plant) grows more every day. One thing leads to another and without giving too much away, Audrey II becomes an insatiable and inconsolable man eating plant.
Many of show's thrills owe much to Ashman and Menken's catchy, clever score featuring 1950s doowop infected tunes such as 'Da-doo' and the title song, 'Little Shop of Horrors', performed by the Second Year chorus, and all enlivened by the terrific Ronnettes (Grace Cashen, Lisa Grimes, Anna Morris, Grainne Nolan, Anna Dickson and Eve Murray), wailing with supreme attitude.
As beleaguered botanist, Seymour, fresh faced James Corrigan was both endearing and dreamy, beneath his taped-together eye glasses, while his partner, Saoirse Lalor as Audrey showed real maturity in her role as a vulnerable, decent hearted but sad woman. Channelling some serious voice, her pining for a decent home in 'Somewhere that’s Green’ was gut wrenching.
Audrey wastes her favours on Orin Scrivello, DDS (Christopher Masterson), a dentist with a creative approach to pain management and as this character, Christopher gave a hilariously inspired performance. While William Holmes, who plays Mr Mushnik, the owner of the terrible flower shop, down on Skid Row, was a worthy Mushnik, energetic and as blustery as a Mushnik should be.
Seymour's vegetal protege, Audrey II 'Twoey' ( impressively sung off stage by Brid Connors with deep bass thumping tones, making the plant irresistible), sucks so much blood from Seymour's body that he turns dizzy and anaemic, but he wants to be wanted, so he lets the plant devour him. By the time he finds his way to Audrey, he has become a reluctant psychopath and Audrey can't imagine herself as anything other than a victim. “I'd done terrible things,” Seymour tells a stricken Audrey. “But, not to you.” “But, I want you to,” Audrey replies.
As the story evolves, so does 'Twoey', who quickly outgrows her can and during the rollicking song 'Feed Me', props had to go to the plant's operator, Adrian Larkin and the puppet designers that turned it into a man eater before the audience's eyes and added great characterisation to the 'plant'.
With the audience firmly planted to their seats on the night, the secret to this production's success was also due to the fantastic direction by Mr Norton, choreography by Ms McNamara and lighting design by Mr Gough. Kudos goes to Recks Audio, Clara and music director, Mr O'Connor, for keeping the sound and music unobtrusive, all of which contributed greatly to the performance.
Compliments must also be extended to the excellent stage design, which was undertaken by the school's art department, while other talented and tight performances were given by Barry Connole (Skid Row Wino), Jillian Crowley (Mrs Muce), Olivia Revill (Skip Snip) and Daniel Vaughan (Bernstein) along with the school's senior chorus.
Full of giddy choreography, a chirpy see-what-sticks approach and a somewhat daft script, this production of 'Little Shop of Horrors' allowed this student cast to excel on stage with outstanding and impressive performances. And, it's safe to say that musical theatre in St Brendan's Community School, Birr is certainly thriving since the school put on its first production 38 years ago.