Going to a show at Progress Theatre is always a bit special. There is an intimacy and fun camaraderie between the audience and performers: a sense of mutual understanding since many will rotate between the two positions over the years. Yet, when there is a musical about a blood-thirsty plant that spreads through the US and corrupts ambitious and naive characters, the energy is even more electric.
The Little Shop is a classical American musical that parodies the American dream. Set in downtown New York slum of Skid Row the show tells the story of the loveable florist Seymour (Parry Bates) who acquires a rare plant, and reaps a fortune over night. Yet the unusual nutritional requirements of the blood-thirsty plant means that Seymour has to make a choice.
Parry Bates is absolutely sensational as Seymour as he masters the facade of adorable innocence with dim flashes of greed that seems to infuse Skid Row like the stench of cheap red wine. His polished performance and surprising flexibility made the show totally gripping and inspires empathy in the audience. Likewise his leading lady Bethan Harris carries elegance to the role of Audrey, which is as good as anything in Broadway, amongst a whole cast of other outstanding performances, that were superbly directed by Geoff Dallimore.
Richard Bott who is the voice and animated presence of the plant is the little dose of horror that the title alludes to. Yet he is anything but little. His grand stature against the rest of the cast reflects the dizzying heights that the well-fed plant reaches. Throughout the performance his unblinking eyes never leave Seymour, making him a threatening presence, whether in the main frame or just watching from the sidelines.
This is a play that will keep you gripped from start to finish, with an array of skilful performances that will get you hooked and put you off of gardening for a long time.
Progress Theatre 18 Apr – 27 Apr 2013 Tickets: www.ReadingArts.com or 0118 960 6060