Commendable performances from all involved in the UCD Musical Society’s production of Little Shop of Horrors left Maria Whelan thoroughly impressed

The UCD Musical Society’s production of Little Shop of Horrors has undoubtedly raised the bar for dramatic arts this year in UCD. Based on a book written by Howard Ashman, Mike Gallagher took on the challenge of producing the show. Meanwhile, Mark O’Brien and Zoe Reynolds took on the role of directing.

The collaboration worked well. Speaking in the lead up to the show, Reynolds said she was used to musicals, having acted in two, but hasn’t done much directing. Gallagher, on the other hand, is an experienced director, but the musical aspect of the performance was a relatively new endeavour for him.

Whilst dealing with the challenge of transforming the large and austere Astra Hall into a performative space, the construction and lighting of the set brought the stage alive. The audience is brought back in time to the New York of the 1960s, more specifically to Mushnik’s small and dull flower shop, where the domineering and demanding Mushnik (Stuart Pollock) struggles to keep his family business afloat.

With a few measly and limp potted plants on the shelves, the audience wonders how the shop operates at all. Amidst this sense of defeat and gloom, the rather gauche Seymour (Garrett Rodgers) sources a non-identifiable Venus fly trap, dubbed Audrey II, which rapidly transforms the failing business.

Not only does the mysterious plant ameliorate the finances of Mushnik’s modest botany shop, it is equally useful in attracting much-desired attention from his heartthrob and co-worker, Audrey (Ailish McCarthy), the girl that the plant is named after. It is only when things really begin to flourish between the couple does this budding romance wither and die.

There is great dramatic irony in the lyrics tunefully sung by the bookish Seymour: “Far from Skid Row, I dream we’ll go somewhere that’s green.” As the drama of the black comedy is unravelled, the audience witnesses the consequence of fame, as we see the malleable Seymour feed the human blood of friends and foes to the remarkably musical and clamorous plant (Garvan Lawler) adhering to its demands.

Through the progression of the performance, we see the meagre fly trap evolve into an enormous and stubborn weed, as the grotesque creature begins to dominate the stage. Despite the negative connotations implied in the title, Little Shop of Horrors was far from a traumatic experience. If anything, there was a valuable lesson behind the doo-wop and rocky numbers, in which musical directors Colin Sweetman and Denis Kilty excelled.

Not only does the audience leave the theatre with the same warm fuzzy feeling you get after watching too much Glee, spectators also come away with a useful tip for life: “Don’t feed the plants.” Take that Mother Nature.