It’s impossible not to have a good time at Little Shop of Horrors - the music is so uplifting, the characters so fun and the story so oddly compelling. Stage by Stage do an apt job of capturing the mood of the piece in an exuberant fashion, but the vocals were not quite strong enough to carry the songs.
There is a lot of good acting in the show, with Will Trafford as the perfect shy botanical protagonist, Seymour. His journey from loser to famous loser, as he discovers a strange and interesting plant sees him encounter a whole host of side characters, from the Skid Row trio, to his colleague Audrey’s sadist boyfriend, the Dentist. There is a range of abilities in the supporting cast, with Jon Bisby’s Mr. Mushnik, Seymour’s boss, sporting a bizarre accent, but with heaps of showmanship. Meanwhile, the part of the Dentist is slightly underwhelming: it is a cracker of a larger-than-life character, and unfortunately Sam Ward doesn’t have the voice or bravado to pull it off.
Unfortunately, across the board, the vocals don’t match up to the acting ability. Perhaps, this could have been helped slightly by turning down the volume of the backing track, as most of the problems were with a lack of power in the voices. However, there were often tuning and balance problems in the ensembles pieces as well. Bryony Buckingham’s Audrey is beautifully shy and unassuming, but neither she or Trafford have the passion in their vocals to make the duet ‘Suddenly Seymour’ the powerful ballad that it should be.
This is a fun production with some talented actors, and highly effective choreography from Tanya Euridge. However, with the exception of the stunning solos from the plant itself (played by Laura Porter) there isn’t enough to dazzle in this production.