Little Shop Opens in London's West End March 12

News   Little Shop Opens in London's West End March 12
 
The West End transfer of the Menier Chocolate Factory revival of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's Little Shop of Horrors officially opens at London's Duke of York's Theatre March 12; previews began March 6.

Paul Keating and Sheridan Smith star in the West End revival of  Little Shop of Horrors.
Paul Keating and Sheridan Smith star in the West End revival of Little Shop of Horrors.

Matthew White's production features actor, comedian and impressionist Alistair McGowan, who took over from Jasper Brittain in the role of the sadistic dentist. Sheridan Smith plays the lovelorn flower shop assistant Audrey, and Paul Keating is her nerdy co-worker Seymour.

Smith is best known for her appearances in British television sitcoms and was also featured in this summer's Open Air Theatre productions of The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Joining Smith and Keating (Tommy, Don Carlos, Closer to Heaven) is Barry James, who played Seymour in the 1983 West End version at the Comedy Theatre. This time James plays the role of Mushnik.

But the star of show is Audrey II, Seymour's all-dancing, eating and singing (voice Mike McShane) carnivorous plant. The plant, which gets progressively bigger throughout the show until it dominates the stage, was created by designer David Farley, realized by animatronic pioneers ARTEM and is operated by puppeteer Andy Heath.

The 1982 musical by Alan Menken (music) and the late Howard Ashman (book and lyrics) glories in the triple genres of cult, spoof and horror. Ashman's book is based on Roger Corman's 1960 movie "The Little Shop of Horrors" in which floral shop assistant Seymour discovers an exotic plant with a ravenous appetite for blood.

Speaking to Playbill.com on the way to a read-through of his latest musical Leap of Faith in New York, Menken recounted how he and Ashman came up with the idea to kill the dentist without turning their hero Seymour into a murderer.

"My father Norman, now 86, was and is a dentist, and a leading proponent in the safe use of nitrous oxide," said Menken. "I said to Howard, 'How about the dentist really likes nitrous oxide? Except, instead of giving it to his patients to kill the pain, he takes it himself to enjoy torturing them, and he overdoses.' Howard thought that was great. It was one of the few times that I made a suggestion and Howard went, 'That's great!' I felt very proud."

When they heard about the idea, Menken's parents were not so proud. "How would you feel if you spent your life promoting the safe use of nitrous oxide and your son wrote this?," asked Menken's mother Janis. All was forgiven when Little Shop of Horrors became a smash hit.

The transfer from the Menier's Southwark venue follows the production house's Olivier Awards triumph for the revival of Sondheim's Sunday in the Park With George, which will arrive at Broadway's Studio 54 in the fall.

For more on Little Shop of Horrors, which is booking until June 2, call (0)870 060 6623.

The West End's Audrey II does lunch.
The West End's Audrey II does lunch.
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