For those Stratfordians who do not attend the theatre, the copious signs, “Do Not Feed the Plants” around the Avon Theatre may seem like another example of government going too far!
For those partaking of director/choreographer Donna Feore’s version of Howard Ashman’s (books/lyrics) Alan Menken’s (music)—all based on Roger Corman’s 1960 film, yet again displaying her many artistic talents, this production is as comforting as it is unnerving.
Imagine a plot that feeds on blood—human only, nothing else will do. Imagine it being “bound” in a Skid Row flower shop nearing bankruptcy until the blessed foliage is revealed. Imagine a biker-dentist getting high on “laughing gas” and decidedly low on beating up his naïve girlfriend.
If any or all of that seems appealing, then do make tracks to Stratford before the greedy plant meets its final harvest in early November.
In many ways, the real stars of this exuberant production (plagued as usual by body mics but—nice change—no gymnastics in the movements) is the black Greek chorus (Vanessa Sears, Starr Domingue, Camille Eanga-Selenge) who give the show much of its energy and provide the most consistent on-pitch singing of the night.
A close second to the excellence sweepstakes are the puppeteers who painstakingly bring the several iterations of Audrey II (aka The Plant to glorious life and insatiable death: Jason Sermonia, Henry Firmston, Evangelia Kambites, Jordan Mah) wonderfully brought to aural life by Matthew Brown’s dulcet voicing.
Playing the catalyst to it all, André Morin does a more than credible job as the down-on-his-luck then media star, Seymour Krelborn. Gabi Epstein is an appropriately vibrant Audrey (I). Neither have yet investigated the joy of understatement with their vocal chops. Preferring to belt away and, accordingly, slipping far from pitch-perfection along the journey.
Steve Ross fares much better in the consistency department as Mr. Mushnik who goes to his great reward with stoic aplomb.
Dan Chameroy, in multiple roles some with split-second costumes changes, is a delight whether exploring his feminine side (an obvious second inning to last season’s Rocky Horror Show—cross-reference below) or pulling teeth for profit.
The design team (Michael Gianfrancesco, Dana Osborne, Michael Walton, Jamie Nesbitt, Peter McBoyle) are worthy of an Academy Award for bringing the plant to glorious, er, fruition, in all of its forms.
But stepping back from the marvellous spectacle, the notions of what we would do for impossible love (get the nasty boyfriend eaten?) or surrendering our souls for cash (surely that doesn’t happen anymore) leaves a bitter taste on the palate where an outwardly vegan prefers blood and meat or a carnivore who just wants a hug. JWR