The paparazzi pounce on the whingers again.
The West End Whingers must be going soft. After a string of disastrous productions, WEW are reluctantly enjoying the theatre again.
Last night they visited the Menier Chocolate Factory to check out its new production of The Little Shop of Horrors, the first professional production staged in London since it was first produced here. Andrew and Phil are unfortunately old enough to have seen the original west end production starring Ellen Greene as Audrey at the Comedy Theatre way back in… Well it was a few years ago, let’s just leave it at that.
Memories of Ellen Greene from that production and from the film are hard to forget, and although we were keenly anticipating this production, in our hearts (yes, we do have them) we felt that disappointment would inevitably ensue.
How wrong we were. The production is a delight. The considerable money spent on it (presumably with a west end transfer in mind) has not been wasted. In fact most of it was spent on the plant.
Andrew had predicted that if the Crystal/Chiffon/Ronette chorus was good then the whole production would be fine. They are and it is. Our only whinge is that the girls are more “street” and don’t get to wear big girl group wigs and fabulous frocks. But the opening number performed by Katie Kerr, Melitsa Nicloa and Jenny Fitzpatrick kicks the show off with a punch and WEW were hooked from thereon in.
WEW thought they’d stumbled on another Neve Campbell moment when an on- stage announcement before the show explained that Paul Keating (Seymour) had a severe throat problem and would try to perform, but that if things got worse “plan B” would be implemented.
So it was that in a very Lina Lamont Singing In The Rain moment (bizarrely predicted by would-be whinger Mark), “plan B” came into force and Keating mimed while cover Matt Eames dubbed his voice live from backstage.
In a rare moment of charity, WEW’s stoney hearts went out to Mr Keating and it didn’t detract from their enjoyment at all. In fact, it was quite thrilling. WEW were further endeared towards Keating for his biography in the programme which ends “and, of course The Bill and Casualty.” He he he.
So it was that the delightful Sheridan Smith (Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps), not only has to contend with audience memories of Ellen Greene, but also found herself singing opposite a miming Keating. She’s not Greene, of course. No-one is, but she not only impressed the whingers, but floored them totally by producing real tears in “Somewhere That’s Green”.
The show is terrific. The plant(s) is/are excellent. WEW found themselves in a rare position of looking for things to whinge about. So we will whinge (again) about the unallocated seating policy of the otherwise charming Menier Chocolate Factory.
If and when it transfers, WEW will be surely revisiting.
The Whingers are snapped with Sheridan Smith
Full disclosure: After the show, the West End Whingers and their entourage spent hours in the Menier bar bending the ears of any member of the cast and crew unfortunate to pass within elbow-grabbing distance.
Sheridan Smith’s commitment to her duties as an actress clearly knows no bounds as she very convincingly feigned interest in Phil’s non-stop ramblings for nigh-on 90 minutes, bless her.
Andrew, meanwhile, left no stone unturned in planning a glittering career for big-voiced newcomer Katie Kerr who – tantalisingly- was apparently within a whisker of playing Tracy Turnblad in the apparently-now-postponed London version of Hairspray the musical. Katie is cover for the excellent Mike McShane (the voice of the plant) in Little Shop… and the West End Whingers beg her to get in touch if she gets the chance to go on; we would pay good money (or at least by yet another round of drinks) to see that.
WEW would like to make it quite clear that they are not, and never have been, Stage Door Johnnies. But they are now working hard on developing a new Stalls Bar Johnny concept that will enable them to combine drinking and whinging to theatre types most in a most agreeable fashion.
Update 20 January 2007: This production of The Little Shop Of Horrors is transferring to the Duke of York’s theatre, opening on 12 March 2007, following previews from 6 March.