Review – Little Shop Of Horrors at the Menier Chocolate Factory

Wednesday 6 December 2006

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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.

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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.

12 Responses to “Review – Little Shop Of Horrors at the Menier Chocolate Factory”

  1. mark Says:

    What a great night out!

    A final tip is to keep an eye out for various Little Shop related celebs (including Ellen Greene) who are reputed to have booked for this run.

    Why don’t all theatres force their cast to leave through the public bar?

    PS Little Shop was last in London 20 years ago – although rumour has it that at least one of the Whingers saw the original off-Broadway production in 1982 – from their pram, surely??

  2. Nicola Says:

    I met the Whingers last night at the performance they have described and it was a pleasure bettered only by the performance itself. The last time I had such fun at a musical was the NT’s production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” – so you see I have very mature tastes when it comes to entertainment. For those who , like me, have seen only the film version of “TLSOH” this production has a less saccharine ending which is more satisfying. Food for the fun loving soul – Feed Me!

  3. andreworange Says:

    Nicola – the West End Whingers salute you.

    You are clearly a woman with excellent taste in both theatre and people. We hope to bump into you at a future performance.

    Your foresight in bringing your own cushion to sit on did you great credit and made our own preparations (which principally involved making sure the bar would be open when we arrived) look feeble by comparison.

  4. daveonthego Says:

    On my nights off I often go and see cheap and tasteless shows, not nice ones like this. I Loved it and can’t recommend it highly enough. What a lot of fun and excellent performances all round. The kiss between Audrey and the dentist is a romantic tour de farce!

  5. andreworange Says:

    daveonthego – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You are funny. Some people are tall, but you are funny. Thank you for your comment.

  6. Paul Says:

    I am glad that the WEW could manage to enjoy the show even with the Lena Lamont moment… It was the most fun I had had a musical since Cabaret…

    But am I the only one to think that PK looked good as a nerdy Seymour? And I like the concept of the stalls bar Johnny… Even if you don’t spot a B-list or even C-list celeb, at least you can have a sensible drink…

  7. andreworange Says:

    You’re probably right about PK, Paul, but it was difficult for us to make a judgment about him in the role because the lad was so clearly ill – sweat pouring down his face, croaky voice etc.

    I think we are going to have to do much more fringe to make the stalls bar johnny idea fly but that’s ok as the drinks are so much cheaper.

    Fringe whingers doesn’t have the alliteration, but it rhymes. Which is nice.

  8. daveonthego Says:

    How about SURLY WITH THE FRINGE or OFF the west end? Have to agree with Paul, that seymour’s a cutie.

  9. andreworange Says:

    well if not, he’s got inner beauty.


  10. I love Little Shop, particularly the stage version with the infinitely less vomit-inducing ending! This may well tempt me into my first Menier Chocolate Factory visit. But I said that about Sunday in the Park With George as well.

    I must also add my voice to the chorus of approval for the Stalls Bar Johnny concept.


  11. Gosh! I can’t imagine what you might have to do to get a ticket at this late stage in the day. But whatever it is, do it. Great fun. Shame you missed Sunday in the Park with George. That was a triumph.


  12. […] baited breath to hear if charming, big-voiced newcomer Katie Kerr, currently playing Chiffon in Little Shop of Horrors, is still in the running for the part of  Tracy Turnblad, as was rumoured. The Whingers are taking […]


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