Now I speak as a self-admitted philistine when I say that I have shied away from amateur theatre in the past. I suppose visions of school plays and woeful village pantomimes filled my head, leaving a mysterious void between them and our stars of TV and Hollywood. So, when I accompanied some friends to go and see the Newcastle University Theatre Society’s rendition of Menken and Ashman’s Little Shop of Horrors, I was in for a surprise.
Upon taking my seat, my eye was immediately caught by the excellent set design and lighting, perfectly recreating the 1950s New York setting with a very modest budget. As a fan of the 1986 movie adaptation I already knew the context, but my genuinely American newcomer to the production remarked that he knew the context. This was further reinforced by the excellent accents adopted by the cast members, maintained throughout vocal numbers and dialogue effortlessly.
On that note, all of the main roles were flawless. Definitely not a one-person show, Little Shop’s varied and dynamic cast requires mutual effort on all parts to succeed and I am pleased to be able to say my expectations were far exceeded. Oliver Warren’s performance as Seymour Krelborn was spot-on, equal parts nerdy and lovable, while Amber Cox played off him perfectly as Audrey. Aidan Clancy gave a truly commendable job of voicing our floral antagonist, and Theo Harris likewise for Mr Mushnik. A special nod from me to Ross Easton in the role of greaser sadist Orin Scrivello DDS, my favourite character in the original show, and Easton did not disappoint.
And what would a musical be without its sound? The band were as tight as could be, and choruses bang on point. Other than a few technical hitches throughout the show, levels were fine if perhaps a little quiet at times, but this did not detract from the overall performance at all.
This show has ultimately given me pause. Am I ready to start throwing money at every amateur drama performance out there? Not quite. But for NUTS? Absolutely.