Auckland Theatre Company has struck exactly the right mix of comic book irony and raw energy in their stylish updating of Little Shop of Horrors.
The musical is a curious hybrid that began life as a horror flick spoof from schlock-meister Roger Corman before morphing into an off-Broadway phenomenon with an appealing mix of sci-fi weirdness and kitschy cornball humour.
Although there is plenty of seriously psychotic mayhem the best moments come from a sweet love story that feels like it was lifted straight off the cheap newsprint of a 50s True Romance comic.
Tim Carlson's jittery physical comedy captures the neurotic anxiety of a nerdy flower shop assistant while Colleen Davis movingly expresses the eager-to-please vulnerability of an abuse victim and earned the biggest applause of the night as she belted out the big, bombastic love ballad Suddenly Seymour.
The ensemble cast deliver hilariously over-the-top performances, with Paul Barrett finding a flamboyant vitality in his endlessly kvetching shop owner, while Andrew Grainger brings an unhinged edge to the sadistically deranged dentist and Rima Te Wiata lends a raunchily seductive voice to the diabolical plant.
Musical director Jason Te Mete generates a lively funk-soul vibe anchored in the awesome vocal trio of Rosita Vai, Bronwyn Turei and Bella Kalolo who invent a dance style that sits somewhere between the Supremes and early Split Enz.
The design team show enormous panache, with Tracey Collins' striking abstract set complemented by Elizabeth Whiting's outrageous costuming and Brad Gledhill's dazzling lighting effects. Collins' take on the plant-puppet is original and quirky, though the heavily sexualised plant forms seem slightly out of synch with the script.
Director Simon Coleman has produced a hugely entertaining show with a decidedly dark edge that could be frightening for young children.
What: Little Shop of Horrors
Where: Q Theatre until December 2