A Botanical Nightmare of Joy in Stratford Festival’s Little Shop of Horrors

0213_Little-Shop-of-Horrors_Stratford-Festival_Cylla-von-TiedemannStratford is known for its world-class theatre and every year the lineup is different, so there is something for all ages to enjoy. Going on our honeymoon after celebrating an 80’s inspired wedding was perfect because of two very special shows at the theatre this year; The Neverending Story (1984 release) and Little Shop of Horrors (1986 release). Let’s look at Little Shop of Horrors in this review.

When you grow up with nothing and people treat you like nothing, how can you thrive, especially when you’re downtown on skid row? For Seymour, an orphan taken in by a demanding and demeaning shop owner, you get that lucky break, a fortunate opportunity lands in your lap where you are the talk of the town and everyone suddenly loves you because you have something that they want.  In this case, a rather “strange and unusual” looking plant named Audrey II pops up. It’s sweet and inviting at first, but an evil lurks that you can’t quite put your finger on.

Desperation, abandonment, greed, hope and of course, the need to be loved are are themes that are explored in this musical-style performance.  A side note, you can really feel like the heart-ache from Audrey, played by Gabi Epstein. It’s subtle at times, but for anyone who has battled with breaking away from cycle of domestic violence, tears may shed when she sings “Somewhere that’s Green.” Do not despair though, knowing that wholesome and loving men like Seymour exist in the world can bring a smile to your face.

There were so many stellar performances all around in this production, like Seymour, played by Andre Morin. Then there is the sadistic dentist, played by Dan Chameroy. He was absolutely brilliant and exhausting to watch on stage with his boundless energy! You may remember him last year at Stratford, as the eccentric Dr Franken-Furter in Rocky Horror Picture Show. This man is multi-talented! A special nod to the incredible singers; Vanessa Sears, Starr Domingue and Camille Eanga-Selenge, who put the extra harmonizing doo-wop shoo-bop in the musical.  Also, who could forget the grocer, played by Jordan Mah. What a hoot, he really added a ton of comic relief. Lastly, the toothy, green-leafed star, Audrey II, voiced by Matthew G. Brown! The intricate details were incredible, growing from a tiny plant to a massive one before your eyes. The multiple puppeteers on each one were great.

If you have seen the film, you’ll notice some differences in this live version, which I think were well thought-out and really heightened the dramatic feel of the musical in itself. Also, it’s a heads or tails on the ending, but the message from the moment the curtain rises up until the final scene is crystal clear, don’t feed the plant!

Little Shop of Horrors has been extended to Nov. 9 at The Stratford Festival’s Avon Theatre. For more information, visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.

Photo: Little Shop of Horrors – photo by Cylla von Tiedemann