...a blog by Richard Flowers

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Day 2441: Sir Mr the Merciless and the Mean Green Mother


Before anyone gets CONFUSED that is actually TWO stories!

Listening to the "Talking Boll Politics", the summertime replacement for "The Weak(est link) in Westminster", we heard the Thinking Man's Crumpet™ Ms Joan Bakewell (NOT a TART!) praising Sir Mr the Merciless:

"He is the most vigorous, most astute, most opinionated politician around."
And she bridled at all the insults heaped on Sir Ming just because of how old he is!

Later, though, we went out to see an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT man-eating lady: Audrey II, the star of the "Little Shop of Horrors".

This was a TREAT laid on for us by Uncle Alan, but it is TOO LATE for you to share, as unfortunately it has come to the end of its run.

Here is what you MISSED!

This was the musical of the film of the musical of the film… you have probably already seen the famous version with Mr Rick Moranis as the anti-heroic horticulturalist Seymour. If you haven't, then you can always get the DVD – although the version which includes the footage of the original (proper) ending is harder to find than gold dust at a Cybermen reunion.

That version was based on the off-Broadway musical hit that was inspired by the original Mr Roger Corman movie (with guest cameo from future star Mr Jack Nicholson, believe it or not). Apparently, the original was made in just two days using time left over on the sets of another movie – it was so cheap that they couldn't afford to re-shoot when props fell over!

The setting is the Skid Row florist of Mr Mushnik, cleverly realised on the London stage with a set that opens on the alley but then has the front wall of the shop and indeed the entire interior swing out to reveal what's going on inside.

Initially, the shop is very down at heel, and for a florist has only a few forlorn flowers. But then Seymour brings in his new discovery – the rare and unusual plant that he calls Audrey II. Immediately business perks up. But Audrey II has a SINISTER SECRET – the plant has the power to make dreams come true but at a price… a price paid in HUMAN BLOOD!

Initially, Seymour feeds the Faustian Flora from his own fingers – sporting ever more alarming numbers of sticking plasters. But as the ever more demanding plant grows to titanic proportions, taking over the florist set, it achieves the power of speech… and indeed SONG! And proposes a much more DIABOLICAL deal to poor Seymour. Fame and fortune in exchange for food… it's just a question of finding the right human to, er, donate the blood! Do Seymour's morals hold him back? Well, no, as he soon finds himself able to justify that "that guy sure looks like plant food to me!"

Not that Seymour ever ACTUALLY kills anyone… he just lets nature take its red-in-tooth-and-claw course. With maybe a little encouragement.

As Yoda would no doubt have warned, though, once you start down the GARDEN PATH, forever will it dominate your destiny, and so it is for Seymour as Audrey II goes on the rampage, devouring its way though the florist fauna (i.e the staff) and then, thanks to a greedy garden centre agent persuading Seymour to let him take cuttings, the rest of America and probably the World as well, restoring the ending of the original musical (which goes a bit further than the original flick, but is completely different from the musical movie – it appears that the American test audience did not favour the black humour of the ending necessitating a hasty re-shoot and a happy electrocution conclusion).

I think that the NASTY ending, with the poor old cast singing "Don't Feed the Plants" from inside of Audrey II, is MUCH MORE SATISFYING.

In fact, overall, I would say that this was a theatrical treat which was better than the film.

The only thing missing – we realised as we left the theatre we had ALL been expecting it – was the song "Mean Green Mother (From Outer Space)" which was nonimated for an OSCAR (the first song containing a PROFANITY to be so). But of course, we should have realised that to BE nonimated it had to have been an ORIGINAL song in the movie.

Many of the musical numbers – including the iconic opening song – hang on the talents of Ronette (Jenny Fitzpatrick) Chiffon (Katie Kerr) and Crystal (Melitsa Nicola), a Greek Chorus of city girls who fill the stage with fun, particularly as they mime the full on "Horrors" in that title song. They were really good!

But even more praise is due to Ms Sheridan Smith playing Audrey, unfortunate inspiration for Seymour's botanical Beelzebub. She had great stage chemistry (as well as biology!) with Mr Paul Keating who was engaging and energetic as Seymour. My daddies were quite miffed that the programme did not mention her season on BBC7 as companion to Dr Who, but you probably know her from wall to wall repeats on BBC3 (squeezed in between wall to wall repeats of "Doctor Who") of "Two Pint of Crisps and a Packet of Lager" and "Grown Ups". Well, do not be misled, as she is also great in comedy, as we discovered this evening. Charming, ditzy and in excellent voice, we thought she was marvellous.

Also making a "big impression" [R: groan] was TV's Alistair McGowan, credited as mental dental doctor Orin Scrivello (DDS!) "and everyone else". The theatre certainly got better value for money out of him than that film did out of Mr Steve Martin – though as Daddy Alex pointed out, you can get away with the same actor appearing in multiple roles more when you are in the theatre. And there is something fairly apposite about Seymour being kind of HAUNTED by his first victim.

Here, after a frankly DISTURBING amount of fluffy-tummy flashing as oversexed Orin overdosing on his Nitrous Oxide, Mr McG returns repeatedly in the second half. Thanks to an impressive series of quick-changes, he manages to be three characters in the space of a single song!

But it has to be said that the undisputed STAR of the show is the evil Audrey II, realised by the huge voice of the hugely talented Mr Mike McShane (as seen, in days of YORE, on "Whose Line is it Anyway?") and by a series of marvellous arboreal animatronics, ranging from the six-inch handheld to the ten-foot-tall full body puppet (and more kudos to Mr Andy Heath whose is the full body in question). It sings, it dances, it eats the rest of the cast!

We will NEVER look at one of those dancing sunflowers is QUITE the same way again!

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