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Wednesday, March 25, 2009


(Lisa Bobbert and Bryan Hiles examine Audrey II in its early stages!)

KickstArt triumphs in vigorous, energetic and hugely entertaining musical about a weird plant that grows … and grows … (Review by Caroline Smart)

From the moment that Pume Zondi belted out those unmistakable soaring lines of Skid Row that held the audience spellbound, we knew we were in for a good evening. KickstArt has triumphed in their production of this vigorous and energetic rock musical that opened tonight at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

Little Shop of Horrors is based on the low-budget 1960 black comedy film of the same name, written by Howard Ashman and directed by Roger Corman. With lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken, it opened in May 1982 at the tiny WPA theatre in New York and by July of that year had taken up residence for a commercial run at the Orpheum Theatre where it spent the better part of the 1980’s.

Steven Stead, KickstArt’s executive director – and also director of the first professional production of this musical to be seen in Durban, goes on to say in his programme notes that Little Shop of Horrors is in essence the timeless Faust legend given classical Broadway shape by first rate authors, and transformed into something new by the application of a fresh and consistent style.”

Greg King’s set is evocative, setting just the right tone for this flower shop set in a dingy part of New York which takes on a more upmarket look as its success increases. The reason for its success is, of course, a small exotic plant propagated by shop assistant Seymour which grows into a bloodthirsty monster. Said monster – Audrey II, in various stages of development – is an impressive creation by Greg King and Wendy Henstock, manipulated by Chris Randall.

It’s well-known in the theatre industry that if the production process is harmonious, positive and well-controlled - whatever the challenges encountered along the way - this energy reaches across the footlights into the audience. Tonight’s audience certainly enjoyed that unified sense of fulfilment, along with the exuberant team spirit of Little Shop of Horrors.

Steven Stead has gathered an impressive and multi-talented cast. As Chiffon, Crystal and Ronette (a nod to famous girl groups of the 50’s), Pume Zondi, Londiwe Dhlomo and Belinda Henwood perform as a musical trio and also appear as street urchins. Jacobus van Heerden and Liam Magner take on a number of roles from layabouts to sharp media representatives. Peter Court is a delight as Mr Mushnik, the owner of the flower shop.

Aaron McIlroy is a perfect choice for the evil dentist. This is dark role and he manages to balance the evil of the objectionable character with much whacky humour. (Liam Magner will take over from Aaron McIlroy on March 25, 27-29 and April 17.)

Lisa Bobbert is an endearing, adorable Audrey – Seymour’s fellow assistant who has a relationship with the dentist who abuses her, adding to her sense of worthlessness. Her Somewhere That’s Green was very moving.

However, the honours belong to Bryan Hiles – seen at last in a role which allows him the space to display his vocal and dancing skills as well as his natural exuberance, sensitivity and flair for comedy. Aaron McIlroy and Lisa Bobbert are a tough act to follow, never mind working with a plant puppet that reaches to the ceiling and is voiced by none other than the inimitable Tim Wells! Bryan impressed in numbers such as Mushnik and Son with Peter Court, Git it! with Audrey II and Suddenly Seymour with Lisa Bobbert.

Evan Roberts, Shelley MacLean and Justin Southey have ensured a good musical sound while Terrence Bray has designed attractive costumes, accurate to the period. Janine Bennewith’s choreography and Tina Le Roux’s lighting add to the overall excellence.

Little Shop of Horrors is a highly complicated technical production but to the team’s credit, the show rattles along seamlessly from start to finish, offering a great evening’s entertaining. The programme even offers a brief glossary of 50’s pop culture terms so you don’t feel left out. Don’t miss it!

Little Shop of Horrors runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from March 22 to April 19. Booking is at Computicket - for more information visit – Caroline Smart