Anton Stephans has performed on Broadway and in London’s West End; he’s sung with legends such as Tina Turner, George Michael and Elton John. But nothing he’s done in his career has prepared him for his current role at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre - being the voice of a man-eating plant!

And he’s loving every minute of it.

The Bolton News: Anton Stephans and Matthew Heywood in Little Shop of Horrors

“I’ve never done regional theatre before,” he said. “I’ve spent most of my life working in the West End and on Broadway and on major tours around the world.

“But I am so proud of what we have created here. I’ve been blown away by it all.”

For much of the production of the musical Little Shop of Horrors Anton is heard but not seen. His vocal pyrotechnics transform Audrey II, the eight-foot alien plant with a taste for human flesh, into a scary, soulful and even sexy creature.

With puppeteer Matthew Heywood operating Audrey II, Anton spends much of the show in his own booth unseen by the audience.

“I have two screens, one showing the musical director and the other stage,” he said. “It is so different, you have effectively two people playing one role. I knew straight away that there needed to be symbiotic relationship between myself and Matthew.

“Him just getting in the plant and trying to mimic what I’m saying just wouldn’t work.”

The pair have managed to pull off a remarkable feat in creating a totally believable plant that is very much the star of the show.

“From the very beginning I didn’t want to play the plant like anyone else had done,” he said. “So I said ‘I’m not going to listen to anyone else, I’m not going to watch the movie’. I wanted us to create something new.”

The Bolton News: Janna May, Zweyla Mitchell Dos Santos, Oliver Mawdsley and Chardai Shaw in Little Shop of Horrors                                                          (Picture: Pamela Raith)

In rehearsal Anton worked alongside puppeteer Matthew - literally.

“I’d stand as close as I could to him and he’d be standing in a pot,” he said. “It was so we could watch each other and learn to move like each other.

“Even though I’m in my booth during the show, I’m moving like the plant all the time. We still talk to each other every day and we’re constantly developing the role. It has been a really rewarding process.”

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Anton has turned Audrey II into a soul sensation, backed by the cast of actor musicians, his musical numbers threaten to take the roof of the Octagon.

“I knew from beginning that the plant had to be something people would recognise but hadn’t seen before,” he said. “I knew pretty much what it sounded like from the outset.

“It doesn’t sound like me that’s for sure. Some people I’ve met and worked with over the years come to mind with its sassiness and temperamental behaviour but it’s nothing like me.

“I wouldn’t dream of behaving like that but that plant has got real attitude.”

The Bolton News: Anton Stephans

Anton has spent his life in the theatre. Aged eight he was cast in Bugsy Malone in the West End.

“You can tell how long ago that was, Phantom of the Opera hadn’t even opened.” he laughed.

Since then he’s starred in Porgy and Bess, Starlight Express and been the lead vocalist in shows such as Riverdance and Blues Brothers Meet Soul Sisters.

He’s also toured with Oleta Adams, Mica Paris, Sting and Sir Cliff Richard.

“I’ve always been an actor first,” he said, “an actor who can sing. But really I’m a storyteller. The lyrics in a song have to tell the story, they have to mean something and resonate with me.”

Anton is loving his time in Bolton.

“I’d been to Manchester before but never Bolton,” he said. “I just love being here. I’m staying with a friend during the run and I went to get the bus in and a woman at the bus stop just said ‘hello, how are you? Come and tell me a bit about yourself’. I just didn’t expect that, everyone is so friendly.

“I’ve been stopped by people so many times when I’m out. I have to leave extra time on my way to the theatre. It’s either people who have seen the show or have been told about it and are going to come along.

“I’ve not had that kind of attention since X Factor.”

Anton was in the top six of series 12 mentored by Simon Cowell. “It was an interesting experience but nothing to do with music,” he laughed.

The Bolton News: Little Shop of Horrors Pamela-Raith-Photography

“Actually being here has reminded me of what community is all about. I have seen people out picking litter and planting trees.

“Like any town there are challenges but there is this great feeling of community. That’s what the Octagon is about too. It’s where the arts can give young people and the disenfranchised a place to be and to learn. I’d certainly love to come back here again. I’m enjoying it so much. It’s reminded me how much I love my job.”

Little Shop of Horrors, Octagon Theatre, Bolton, until Saturday, May 18. Details from