REVIEW: Monster plant musical is blooming marvellous

"Although we didn't know it at the time, this was such a lovely way for leaving students to conclude their time with us," says director of music Michael Barker


 Little Shop of Horrors (Ripon Grammar School, March 10-13)

Photographs by ANNABELLE Paterson

DARK yet uplifting, hilarious but sad, and with tongue firmly planted in cheek from beginning to end, Little Shop of Horrors is a love story like no other.

In the hands of a brilliant gang of Ripon Grammar School students, with two casts performing to packed houses over four nights, this poignant sci-fi horror spoof musical comedy was an absolute triumph.

The entire cast, without exception, shone on stage while the backstage team - from orchestra to technical, props, set, costumes & make-up and stage crew - ensured a stunning sound and visual treat.

At the heart of the story is the mean, green bloodsucking alien hellbent on world domination.

The huge, carnivorous plant came to life on the RGS stage, where it gleefully gobbled up the lead characters right in front of our eyes.

Taking on the mammoth role of this freaky botanical specimen with a macabre craving for human blood, and a big, soulful voice to match, was no easy task.

But Alfie McEvoy and Toby Pallatina mastered the booming, bone-ripping vocals required for some of the biggest numbers of the show with ease.

Jasper Wood and Dominic Livesey were hilarious as the sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello, both outrageously creepy and comic at the same time. And, like all the actors involved, they maintained an impressively convincing New York accent throughout.

The chorus girls – Eva Scullion, Neive Zenner, Macy Raine, Susie Morgan, Imogen Dow and Clara Dammann – flitted on and off the stage in their glamorous matching outfits, perfectly linking the scenes and storylines with catchy Sixties doo-wap songs which remained in our heads long after the show.

All credit to the backstage crew for pulling off all the quick costume, prop and scenery changes so flawlessly.

Playing the stingy, struggling Skid Row flower shop owner Miss Mushnik, Rafaella Shiers and Elizabeth Calland-Brooke injected lots of bluster and flair to turn this cranky, manipulative, grumpy and opportunistic character into comedy gold, impressing us with their superb vocal range and comic timing

Both Sam Cann and Geordan Branton threw themselves into playing the central character of Seymour, the geeky flower store worker who discovered the strange talking plant, with glee.

Nailing every song with gusto and panache, they made us all believe in the timid and shy, but secretly brave, character of Seymour, carrying us with them as they contended with all the problems the plant, Audrey II, brought.

As they grappled with their guilt, the morals underpinning the story – beware of things that seem too good to be true and the dangers of only looking out for yourself – were never far from our minds.

Playing Seymour’s co-worker and the girl of his dreams, Tehya Sutton and Emma Belward captured our hearts in the role of the naive but loving, slightly scatty and deeply insecure character Audrey.

From cheerfully silly to desperately tragic, both properly let rip with their huge numbers, relishing the opportunity to make us laugh out loud while, in turn, sending tingles down our spines.

But it was when the characters of Seymour and Audrey came together with their sublime harmonies that things turned, simply, magical.

Both sets of leads combined to produce breath-taking performances, which resulted in rapturous and thoroughly deserved applause.

A kitsch musical about a man-eating plant, with a bonkers plot - so hammy it demands a honey glaze - shouldn’t really work.

But Ripon Grammar School’s students, under the masterly direction of head of music Michael Barker with Beth Morpeth (musical director) and Tricia Etherington (choreography), clearly had bags of fun proving, beyond doubt, that it does.


'Well done to all the students and staff at RGS for a fantastic run of shows! Thoroughly enjoyed both performances, all involved an absolute create to the school. The music department should be so proud of all their hard work!" Tracey Kendrick

'Superb performance of Little Shop of Horrors at RGS. So very impressed by the high standards and superb performance skills demonstrated by every member of the cast and crew.' Jennie Went

'What a fab performance. Great job by everyone involved.'Joe Hart

'A first class professional performance to a packed audience. Many congratulations to everyone involved. A brilliant evening.' Elizabeth Jarvis

'Brilliant evening. Well done to everybody involved.' Ruth Cheung

'It was absolutely sensational! RGS should be incredibly proud of themselves for producing a show that was of a professional standard. Well done to all involved.' Nicole Sutton

'It was wonderful. Well done to Mr Barker and all the crew both on-stage and off and the fabulous band with Mrs Morpeth. Wonderful show!'  Ruth Sladden

'They were all, without exception, fantastic. Thank you for a great night of entertainment." Zita Branton

'Fantastic performance, Just fantastic, well done everyone!' Heather Raine

'Fantastic opening night! I was centre front row and enjoyed every second. It was incredible!' Amelia Urukalo

'Well done everyone.' Marielou LaGrey-Fletcher

'Absolutely brilliant. Amazing talent!' Dawn Hodgson

Director of music Michael Barker said: ‘It has been a pleasure to work with such talented students who worked really hard to prepare for this wonderful production. This also couldn’t have been possible without all of the back stage crew, support staff and technicians who worked tirelessly to ensure the productions ran smoothly. By the last performance more than 700 people saw our show over the four nights which is amazing. What a memory to take away from my first year at Ripon Grammar school.’

Headmaster Jonathan Webb said:" The superb acting, singing and dancing of both casts was a real treat. The students involved, including all the backstage crew and orchestra, as always, were a real credit to the school. Special thanks of course go to all the staff who gave their time so generously but in particular I would like to thank Tricia Etherington [choreography], Beth Morpeth [musical director] and of course Michael Barker [director] for all their hard work and dedication.

Ensemble cast:
Holly Maisey – (also Skip Snip)
Zoe Williams – (also shop customer)
Imogen McMurray –(also Mrs Luce)

Aisha Preece – (also Mrs Bernstein)

Theo Kendrick 

Evie Sladden 

Lily Aikman 

Emily Hodgson

Posie Abrahams

Chessie Abrahams

Zara Ali

Erin Reader

Olympia Dunn

Isabel Mordue

The orchestra: James Kitchingman, Amy Goodwin, Phoebe Ingram, Cayla Davies, Alfie Goodwin, Jake Hewison, Karenza Dearden, Barnaby Sladden, Gabriel Ali, George Appleyard, Jamie Pritchard, Chris Moxon

Costumes and Darcey Joia
MakeupLois Makey
Gaby Symonds
Stage ManagersMegan Inglis
Maddy Cann
Erika Phillips
Francesca Moulton
Technical managerThomas Whitelegg
Technical AssistantsNick Hart
Shen Jie Yaw
Jude Mackey
Alistair Kettlewell
Props ManagerRose Cottrell
Mrs. Dring
Set/Scenery ManagerEsther Arnold
Abi Burke
Esther Arnold