Little Shop of Horrors as presented by HXT Musical Society
Little Shop of Horrors as presented by HXT Musical Society
Civic Theatre Tallaght
7th – 11th November 2023
Date of Adjudicated Performance: Friday 10th November, 2023
Just to be different, let’s start at the very end of the show, and a finale that blew the minds of the audience. I don’t know if Director Ciarán Mooney had been binge watching the muppets or Avenue Q, but the sudden appearance of dozens of hand puppets from windows, around flats, from wheel-barrows, etc, all belting out the harmonies of Mean Green Mother from Outer Space while Audrey II took centre stage, was a touch of fantastical, outrageous genius, to which the audience rose as one, laughing and cheering, to join the madness. It was simply brilliant.
But all this was really just the icing on the cake of a production of Little Shop of Horrors that had all the perfect ingredients to serve up an incredibly tasty treat of a show. HXT got just about everything right, from a top-notch production team to a superb cast of performers and a team of technicians who ensured that every detail of the show was meticulously prepared. This was musical escapism at its finest.
Ciaran’s vision of the show was shared and complemented by Choreographer, Erica Delaney, whose work was not just about energetic dance routines, but also well-choreographed “business” during some of the narrative numbers, always contributing to the action and ambiance of the various scenes. Her work with Crystal, Chiffon and Ronette was most impressive and very well-synchronized.
Musically, the show was steered along by MD, Dermot O’Callaghan and a very fine band of musicians who played the score with great expression and accuracy, tender in tone when required, and vibrant in the up-tempo numbers. Vocals were always strong and secure, whether from the impressive principals or the vibrant, harmonious chorus.
Taking the leading role of Seymour Krelborn, Seán Mac Mathúna had the perfect balance of comedy, sincerity, nerdiness and vocal quality to fully realize the range of this character. His strength as an individual was complemented by his ability to bond and blend with those he encountered throughout the show, romantically with Audrey, and comically with Mushnik and Orin. This was an excellent characterization and performance.
Aoife Small had the ability, and the vulnerability to make the most of Audrey, displaying great timing, a great accent, a secure and melodic vocal quality, and a perfect look for the part. Her fear of Orin was as palpable as her love for Seymour, and throughout, her comedy was excellent.
Gary Finnegan was rock solid as the hyper-thyroid employer, Mr. Mushnik, making the most of his comedy and delightfully selling his vocal pieces, with Mushnik and Son being a highlight of his performance.
Bringing an element of ludicrous insanity to the story, (as if a man-eating plant wasn’t enough) Damien Hurley revelled in the madness that was Orin Scrivello, the sadistic dentist and lover. This is a comedian who can say as much with his facial expressions as he can with words and actions, and I just wished he had more scenes in the show. His Dentist song was a high point of the show, both in its construction and in its performance. Top notch.
Crystal, Chiffon and Ronette are so much more than street-urchins, as they are pretty much the narrators of the whole story, commenting on the state of society, the lives of the individuals and witnessing every evil event of the tall tale. Charlene Masterson, Julie Donnelly and Kelly-Marie Davy-DuBerry, respectively, were the glue that held the whole story together, performing with character and comedy, punch and personality, fluency of movement and vigorous vocal competence. The quality of Charlene’s voice was, for me, the most impressive, but it was as a perfectly pitched trio, as in-sync as a synchronized swimming team, that they really commanded the stage and swept the audience along with their every note and move. Brilliant teamwork from these girls.
Providing the voice and the somewhat disturbing form of Audrey II, Eoin Salley probably enjoyed the escapism of his character as much as we, the audience, enjoyed his performance. His appearance was excellent and his delivery compelling, especially the superb Mean Green Mother finale, which brought the house down.
One must not forget the contribution of Paul Laycock, the puppeteer of the plant, who displayed incredible energy and a strong knowledge of the script. Very good work.
The roles of Skip-Snip, Mrs. Luce, Bernstein, Customer, etc, (not credited in the programme) were all played with energy and confidence, completing a very strong and capable principal line-up.
From their first appearance for Skid Row to the highly inventive and brilliantly presented finale of Mean Green Mother, the chorus were well integrated into the story, and performed with high energy and very strong vocals. Particularly outstanding and highly amusing was their participation in the brilliantly conceived Dentist Song.
Stage manager, Marie Cusack, had everything under control and running like a well-oiled machine, making the most of a beautifully designed, well-painted and well-used set, which was, in turn, complemented by an excellent lighting display that added colour, tone and atmosphere to every scene, without ever leaving the action in the shadows.
Sound management was very secure, with good balance between orchestra and stage, accurate cueing, and good effects. Not to be outdone by the technicians, the aestheticians made their own wonderful contribution to the show with beautiful and appropriate costumes, hairstyles and make-up, a superb array of well-selected props and great detail in the plants and puppets employed throughout.
This production is an example of just how exhilarating even a show as uncomplicated as Little Shop can be when all the various aspects of production and performance are so delightfully and meticulously drawn together in an airtight and crafted package. Wonderful work and wonderful entertainment. Thank you to all involved.
Peter Kennedy, Gilbert Adjudicator
Some photos kindly provided by the society.
Photographer: Darragh Carroll (@darraghcphotography)