Little Shop of Horrors

Reviewer's rating

Sheffield University Performing Arts Society (SUPAS) is well known throughout Sheffield for its high standard, visually and audibly stunning musical performances. As they took on the classic, feel good musical Little Shop of Horrors, a show about a man-eating plant, I entered the theatre with anticipation and excitement.

The star of the show, Audrey II (the plant), cleverly crafted despite limited budget and materials, was playfully and impressively brought to life through striking puppeteering by Harry Reeves and the powerful vocals of Jamal Simon, delighting the audience with charm, charisma and comedy. Contrasting to the effectiveness of the plant props (ranging from small, medium to large) the rest of the set, particularly the bland white boards forming a background needed work and felt uninspired. Saying this, I am aware that the production was plagued with technical and logistical issues behind the scenes, yet despite this everyone involved persisted and pulled together in order to put on an entertaining production.

Remarkably, Simon further displayed his immense talent by also taking on the role of the sadistic dentist, exhibiting his excellent voice with a terrifying magnetism and humour, commanding the stage with his presence. Will Leggetter perfectly portrayed the quirky and loveable Seymour opposite Jess Brandao as the simpering yet sympathetic Audrey. Brandao’s rendition of ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ was moving and enchanting while Leggetter and Nathan Sloane as Mushnik created a wonderful comedy duo in their duet ‘Mushnik and Son’, with their amusing singing combining with hilarious chorography.

However, some scenes, particularly the opening, were a bit lacklustre and the actors felt uncertain and uncommitted at times. For example, the three urchin Rockettes needed more conviction as their choreography execution was sloppy at times, and their vocals occasionally wobbly; yet in scenes where they succeeded they were harmonic and captivating. Indeed, the choreography as a whole was slightly messy and the direction for the ensemble seemed aimless and distracting at times, a feature at odds with the purposeful and focused direction of the lead characters. This was exemplified in the ending, which felt underwhelming with chaotic and apathetic direction instead of a successful punchy ending in which the whole world including the theatre is taken over by killer plants.

That being said, the whole production warmed up as it progressed, as the actors gain confidence and certainty in their own performance to create a funny, heart-warming, lively show, executing many of the songs melodiously. The absolute stand out element of the show was of course the plant; I applaud the prop team for making all four plant puppets effective and impressive, as well as Reeves the puppeteer and Simon as the voice tying all the elements together to make Audrey II humorous and sinister. Moreover, the band, deftly directed by Florence Allwood, expertly lent the necessary pizzazz and flair, carrying the plot and cast along throughout the show.

Ultimately, it was an entertaining romp of a show with some stand out acting, singing and props. However, usually when I attend a SUPAS show I expect and trust that the passion and dedication of everyone involved will allow me to sit back and fully immerse myself into the performance but unfortunately the set, chorography and uncertainty within the production meant that I felt the performance failed to pack SUPAS’s usual professional punch. But, I am elated that SUPAS continues to provide an opportunity for young people to perform in both large scale and smaller scale musicals and get a taste of the professionalism of the musical theatre world. SUPAS’s next show will be Jekyll and Hyde in the spring of 2020, so if you are looking to see some high standard amateur musical theatre, look no further than Sheffield University Performing Arts Society for your evening’s entertainment.