Horrors show is gruesomely good funJennifer de Klerk
Jennifer de Klerk: Whatever you do, don’t feed this plant, but also, whatever you do, don’t miss this Little Shop of Horrors at the UJ Arts Centre
The cult musical is playing at the UJ Arts Centre and it’s a rollicking piece of macabre theatre dominated, naturally, by the hugely obscenely growing plant monstrosity Audrey 2.
“Feed me, Seymour,” screamed the children, racing around the lawns at interval, then eagerly going back for more.
I’m not sure I would want a small child to see this show, fearing the stuff of nightmares. After all, you don’t meet man-eating, talking plants every day of the week. It didn’t seem to bother this lot though.
Matthew Counihan makes a wonderful Seymour, consistently engaging and gawky all at once, effortlessly conveying both his tenderness for the downtrodden Audrey and his horror at what he has become. His big number, Suddenly Seymour, is a tearjerker.
The other professional in the cast, Luciano Zuppa, is equally strong as Mr Mushnik, the shop owner, but it is first year student Musa Mboweni who really catches the attention. She’s spot on as the pathetic but endearing Audrey.
Richardo Pizzi has enormous fun as the evilly-grinning psychotic dentist who beats up poor little Audrey. You almost want to cheer when he disappears into Audrey 2’s gaping maw. There’s definitely a message here about woman abuse.
The plant, by the way, is a character all his own, singing along with gusto. I particularly liked the puppeteering of Baby Audrey 2 squirming in Seymour’s arms, already snapping at potential prey.
With energy and enthusiasm the cast, mostly students, but also some UJ alumni, hit the high notes of the upbeat numbers. The three glitzy chorus girls maintain the pace throughout, adding context and commentary with a roll of the eyes and a twitch of the hips.
Others of the ensemble make the most of their cameo roles.
It’s a dark piece, aided by the innovative design and lighting – and eerie musical effects - but it’s fast-paced, gruesomely good fun too.
Little Shop of Horrors, directed by Owen Lonzar with musical director Rowan Bakker, is at the UJ Arts Centre until September 22.
Jennifer de Klerk is editor of Artslink.co.za
UJ Arts Centre, cnr Kingsway and University Road Auckland Park Johannesburg Gauteng South Africa