Let’s just get this out of the way early doors, no messing about, no fancy intro; this was an outstanding production.
I’ve taken my cue from Echo Youth Theatre with my intro there, as with their production of Little Shop of Horrors, they chose to keep it simple. Nothing fancy, no technical wizardry, just plain old (or young as it happens) talent and charisma, and a trust in the rich material they had to work with.
I did feel the show got off to a slightly timid start, with a couple of small sound issues and some apparent and understandable first-night nerves, but from Skid Row onwards, it blossomed into an absolute stonker of a performance.
We don’t need to talk about the show itself, being as iconic as it is, which allows me more room to wax lyrical about this wonderful group.
While this tight unit was most impressive in general, I feel it’s still worth singling out individuals for praise. The two leads, Seymour and Audrey, played by Korben White and Carrigan Matthews were superb. Korben shone throughout as the put-upon, stressed, and love-sick Seymour Krelborn. Yes, he could belt out a tune, the entire company were very impressive vocally, but Korben’s acting was outstanding too, expertly treading that fine line between pathetic and lovable in his characterisation, and almost moving this stony-hearted old fool to tears at the end.
And Carrigan as Audrey was just incredible. Her vocals in Somewhere That’s Green and Suddenly Seymour were top notch, and equally, her characterisation was just as extraordinary, managing to keep Audrey in that difficult bracket of adorable/goofy/vulnerable. I’ve seen much more experienced actors turn Audrey into a really irritating character, but Carrigan’s confidence helped make the role her own. I have to mention that her accent was perfect too.
Elsewhere, George Bartlett-Archery and Jack Rudd as Mushnik and the dentist kept the laughter coming with fantastic comic performances. The trio of Ronnette, Chiffon, and Crystal played by Kylara Pope, Amy Skepelhorn and Mabel White were exceptional throughout, helping to keep the action moving and displaying some impressive harmonies along the way. This might be symptomatic of me hyper-focusing, and possibly something that others don’t do, but what really impressed about the terrific trio is that they were always ‘on’. Every now and then, while someone else was taking centre stage, I would glance over at the three of them, and they never once broke their focus, constantly reacting and interacting in character to everything around them - really impressive stuff, and something that separates the wheat from the chaff onstage.
And as for Audrey II, that soulful voice was incredible from Lily Matthews - it’s only a shame she only gets to show it off in the second half.
I also need to say more than a few words for the Director, Chris Davidson. While he was of course blessed to have a company brimming with talent for this production, his skill in guiding this group to a thoroughly professional outcome is not to be overlooked. Chris’ focus on vocal quality was evident, but never at the expense of acting ability. I was also impressed by the way he squeezed every last drop of comedy from the script, and the precise, efficient manner with which scene changes were handled. Chris’ influence was remarkable, and will hopefully stand this gifted group in good stead whatever their next steps in the world of performing arts may be.
With yet another brilliant show under their belts, Echo is fast becoming a byword for high quality productions, and not just in the realms of youth theatre. This is a show that would be more than a match for any adult company, and one that everyone involved should be so proud of. I’m so pleased I was able to see it, and if you get the chance before it closes on 15 April, please do get yourself along to the Maddermarket. Tickets for this awesome production are available via maddermarket.co.uk