For the past nine years, rather than roam the streets throughout the summer holidays, some of Felixstowe’s youngsters have signed-up for two weeks with the Spa Pavilion’s Summer Youth Project.Essentially this comprises of a week of rehearsals for a stage production of a well-known musical followed by a week of performances in front of a paying audience. Past productions have included, We Will Rock You, Summer Holiday and the Wiz. This year the planned show was High School Musical, however everything didn’t go to plan.
All to often in amateur theatrics there is a shortage of males willing to take on the roles, this is something that never ceases to puzzle this reviewer but it’s a fact across literally all local drama groups. High School Musical called for a number of male leading characters, and while it’s possible sometimes to have a female play a male role the Summer Youth Project team felt that in this case it would not do the production justice.
As they say in showbiz circles, “the show must go on” so a last minute decision was made to change the production to something more female participation friendly. After a little searching around the team settled on Little Shop of Horrors and judging by the opening night’s performance on Wednesday, this was an excellent choice.
I had reservations when I initially learnt that the show was to be High School Musical, thinking that it would be sugary sweet and appeal only to pre-teen girls. Switching however to Little Shop of Horrors meant the cast were stretched to perform a gritty, somewhat dark production but still make it entertaining and this is something they did brilliantly.
Little Shop is one of the longest running off-Broadway shows of all time and tells the story of a down-and-out skid row floral assistant, Seymour, who becomes an overnight celebrity when he discovers an exotic plant with a mysterious craving for fresh blood. Seymour is secretly in love with fellow shop assistant Audrey, he even names the plant after her – Audrey II, although she is dominated by evil boyfriend Orin. But then with a little help from a hungry plant all that can be changed!
It is really difficult to single out any individual performer as practically all of the cast turned out performances that they can justly be proud of.
Seymour was played by Gareth Davey and he managed to portray the geeky shy shop assistant superbly and Gareth seems a natural for musical theatre as is Harriet Bacon who plays Audrey. (Incidentally the role of Audrey is being played by two different actresses throughout the week, Harriet Bacon and Suzannah Holland).
Taking centre stage, quite literally, in any performance of Little Shop of Horrors is Audrey II, a plant that has a life of it’s own, that moves and sings (controlled inside by Stuart Cheadle and voiced by another local star of the future, singing from the wings, Francesca Davey). Traditionally the plant’s voice is a male role although circumstances here forced this to be changed to a female. The change of gender of the voice didn’t alter the effect at all.
In the past few years Summer Youth Project has become somewhat “samey” and predictable with certain elements, dance routines etc, repeated in every performance. This year the production team, Director Rebecca Darcy and Choreographer Suzie Lowe pushed these boundaries and this has given a fresh lease of life to the companies production.
Theatre audiences nationwide are currently in a slump due to the recession. However there is still some great theatre to be had for reasonable prices. The Summer Youth Project’s “Little Shop of Horrors” is definitely worthy of an evening of your time.