Fast, funny and faultless, this production by the Immersion Theatre Company, at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, makes this 1986 musical into a classic as no other production or film of it that I’ve seen has done. Brilliant choreography, acting equally joyfully stylised and expressive, and musical direction that makes even recitative numbers into foot-tapping doo-wop and blues – a recipe for success.
The story is a blend of Grimm’s fairy tale, urban parable and modern cautionary tale. It’s the tale of a poor boy born in the gutter who finds himself committing murder to feed a monstrous carnivorous plant he’s grown, all in the name of bettering himself and winning the girl he loves. All kinds of moral and social lessons can be read in the plot, but above all this is an enormously stylish, funny, fast-moving and beautifully choreographed piece of entertainment. The horror of the plot is subverted into pure absurdity and fun.
On stage almost continuously are Sasha Latola, Vanessa Fisher and Cassi Claire as Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette. They form a “Greek chorus” from the start and their doo-wop singing and fantastically inventive dancing are indispensible to the action. I also enjoyed Phil Adele’s and Stephanie McConville’s contributions to the Skid Row street dance ensembles (as flasher and pregnant mum!)
The monster star of the show, Audrey II, manipulated by puppeteer Josh Wilmott with Neil Nicholas providing its fruity, obscenely sensual blues-singing voice, was threatening enough to frighten one member of the audience into demanding to leave, momentarily. But for the rest of the highly appreciative audience this was a comic fantasy world that we were glad we’d entered for an hour or two.
I left the New Victoria Theatre exhilarated and transformed by a truly entertaining experience. Not that I was humming the tunes from the show: there are none that are in themselves the stuff of ear-worms. The magic was in the sheer joy, humour and verve of this production. A must-see!
© Janice Windle
This review is also published today on the theatre page of Essential Surrey online magazine