For this year’s Christmas show, the Gainsborough Academy chose to avoid the traditional pantomime and ambitiously tackled the classic cult musical Little Shop of Horrors.
This hit show is 60’s pastiche horror comedy about a giant man- eating plant, which manipulates a nerdy shop assistant, Seymour into feeding his enemies to the plant, including a sadistic dentist and a mean shop keeper.
The show requires a brilliant, fast moving production, exaggerated performances, powerful singing and almost constant sense of movement.
And it certainly got all those here.
As the nerdy Seymour, Ryan Higgins gave a hilarious performance, capturing Seymour’s gentle spirit and conflicted morality, singing in character and capturing the heart of the audience.
As his glamorous, but dim co-worker, Audrey, Lara Erol gave a star making performance, squeaky-voiced, tottering on her heels, vulnerable and funny at the same time.
These two sang the show-stopping ballad Suddenly Seymour beautifully, and had the audience enraptured.
Marco Torres portrayed the mean spirited Mr Mushnik precisely, cleverly letting the audience see the nastiness beneath his avuncular façade.
On the other hand, Jak Hill as the ultimate nightmare villain – a cruel dentist – had the audience wincing at his nastiness and cheering as he met his demise.
The best compliment a villain can get is the loathing of the audience and Jak achieved that perfectly.
The other star of the show was the enormous plant Audrey II, so big it required four puppeteers, Ieuean Nicholls, James Moodey, Dominic Rogers and Josh Lees, to bring it to life, while Chris Cook’s powerful soulful vocals and bassy booming voice made the audience jump out of their seats with terror on more than one occasion.
The other real stars of the show were the inhabitants of Skid Row, and this was where the ensemble acting came into its own.
A group of girl singers, Sophie Mumby, Olivia Wilkinson, Brooklyn Halloran, Charlie Carney and Reagan McCull acted as a Greek Chorus throughout, and these girls sang their hearts out.
This is where the production really came to life.
Every tiny part, from the customers of the flower shop, Mitchell Day as the dentist’s hapless victim, to the creepy journalists played by Isla Sutton, Maddison Beckett and Sean Hobson was played to perfection.
The director, Megan Jones, cleverly orchestrated the huge cast and with the help of clever choreography from Ann Hargrave the stage never seemed crowded.
Every small part was beautifully integrated into the whole, and this show probably contained the best ensemble playing ever from the Academy.
The costumes, courtesy of Emma Burley, were perfect for the show, and the assistant directors, student teachers Kayleigh Fisher and Jessica White, helped to co-ordinate the whole show and ensure that every student could produce their best performance.
The show was funny and moving, and the audience loved the catchy songs, the 60’s rhythms and the gleeful parody of old-fashioned horror movies.
As they left, smiling and laughing, I heard one audience member remark ‘now, that’s what I call a Christmas show, that was fantastic’ and I had to agree.
Once again, the Academy has shown us the depth and quality of talent we have here in Gainsborough, and reminded us that ambition and creativity will always reach the audience.
PS: I am assured that no plants were harmed in the making of this show.
I have received no such assurance about dentists!