London's Little Shop of Horrors to Close in September

By John Nathan
16 Aug 2007

Paul Keating and Sheridan Smith in Little Shop of Horrors.
Paul Keating and Sheridan Smith in Little Shop of Horrors.

The Menier Chocolate Factory production of Little Shop of Horrors, which has been playing in the West End's Duke of York's and the Ambassadors theatres for 26 weeks, will close on Sept. 8 prior to a U.K. tour in 2008.

Matthew White's production opened at the Chocolate Factory's Southwark venue on Nov. 29, 2006, and transferred to the West End's Duke of York's Theatre on March 12, following previews from March 6. The musical later transferred to the Ambassadors Theatre, where it currently resides.

The West End run 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 (Tommy, Don Carlos, Closer to Heaven) is her nerdy co-worker Seymour.

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

The cast also includes 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 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 recently, 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 Judy. All was forgiven when the Little Shop of Horrors became a smash hit.

The cast for the U.K. tour of the show has yet to be announced.

The original production of Little Shop of Horrors opened at the old WPA Theatre in Chelsea and then transferred to the Orpheum Theatre in 1982, where it stayed for 2,209 performances. Ashman, who died on March 14, 1991, directed the piece. Edie Cowan was choreographer. The musical, which boasts such tunes as "Suddenly Seymour," "Downtown" and "Somewhere That's Green," was made into a 1986 film starring Ellen Greene as Audrey, Rick Moranis as Seymour, Vincent Gardenia as Mushnik and Steve Martin as Orin, the dentist.