Students' monstrous musical is a scream

STUDENTS are relishing bringing a monster hit musical, with a giant man-eating plant, sadistic dentist and killer rock ‘n’ roll songs, to Ripon Grammar School’s stage.

The Little Shop of Horrors four-night run opens on March 10, with the talented performers pulling out all the stops to ensure it will be a scream.

The hilariously gruesome sci-fi horror spoof has been devouring theatre-goers’ hearts since it was first performed nearly 40 years ago, inspired by a 1960 B-movie of the same name.

Geordan Branton, from outside Harrogate, is one of 32 students - making up two casts appearing on alternate nights – who are savouring the opportunity of appearing in the energetic tongue-in-cheek show, with a live student orchestra.

He turns 18 years old on March 13, one of two dates when he stars as dorky hero Seymour, the pathetic flower shop assistant catapulted to fame as the caretaker of the insatiable carnivorous plant.

His first role in a drama production, he can’t think of a better way to celebrate this milestone birthday: “I’d never heard of Little Shop before last year. It’s such a great opportunity.”

Talented singer Geordan, who hopes to become an RAF pilot, performs with a number of school choirs and will appear on an upcoming broadcast of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent as part of the 30-strong RAF Air Cadet choir in April.

He was encouraged to audition for the role of Seymour, which calls for big solos as well as spine-tingling harmonies, by school friends: “I was delighted to be picked. I’m really enjoying it. I only wish I’d started doing musicals earlier,” he says.

For Emma Belward from Ripon, playing the lead role of Audrey, Seymour’s love interest and co-worker in the kitsch horror movie send-up, is a dream come true.

The 18-year-old, who has been performing since she was four years old, has longed to play the role of Audrey ever since she played a minor role in a Little Shop of Horrors youth production in London four years ago.

“I was only 14 then and fell in love with the role of Audrey. But I thought I would never get the chance. Now in my last year at RGS, this is perfect timing,” says Emma, who is applying to study medicine at university.

In addition to Audrey’s funny and heart-warming character, she loves the show’s music: “It’s just fabulous, such a huge range of numbers, both sad and funny, and a great chance to belt and go all out with the songs.”

Alfie McEvoy, from outside Ripon, is one of two enthusiastic singers playing the role of the monstrous alien plant Audrey 2, who performs some of the biggest numbers of the show.

The 17-year-old, who has appeared in numerous dramas at RGS and also enjoyed the experience of directing, says he loves being a part of such a great comedy, with wonderful stand-out moments: “It’s a play of twists and turns which the music captures perfectly.”

Hoping to study medicine when he leaves RGS, he sings in school choirs and at Ripon Cathedral and had to dig deep to capture the soulful voice of the freakish botanical specimen with a macabre craving for human blood.

“This is very different to what I’m used to. It calls for a deep and exuberant jazz-style voice, in a higher pitch than I usually sing. It’s a challenge, which I’m really enjoying. I just can’t get enough of the singing.”

Jasper Wood, from Bedale, who plays the grisly dentist Orin, grasped the chance to take on a major musical role during his last year at RGS.

A school choir member, 18-year-old Jasper, who hopes to study engineering at university, says: “I’ve appeared in a number of school dramas but really wanted to do a musical before I leave.”

Of his role as the devilishly evil dentist, he says: “It’s really good fun. My character is a bad guy and a bit scary. I am playing him really creepily and I hope that comes across.”

Age has been no barrier to Tehya Sutton, from Ripon, taking on the lead role of Audrey.

The 15-year-old, who has been singing and acting since she was eight years old, landed the starring role of Elle Woods in Upstage Academy’s Legally Blonde at Harrogate Theatre last summer and also had a role in Ripon Operatic Society’s production of Evita.

A school choir member, she is considering a career in the performing arts: “I thought I might as well go for the lead role, as I didn’t have anything to lose. She’s such a ditzy character but funny too. It’s a great opportunity and I’m really excited.”

She had already sung some of the songs from the musical with Ripon Youth Theatre: “They can be quite challenging, but really enjoyable too. When I heard we were doing Little Shop of Horrors I just knew it was going to be great.”

For accomplished violinist Sam Cann, playing the role of Seymour has unearthed his hidden talents as a singer. The 15-year-old from outside Ripon, in his first singing role, is now taking lessons in order to ensure he nails all the songs.

“It’s quite a challenge as I’ve never sung that much before. But I’m really enjoying the role, it’s a great musical and I just love the music,” he says.

*March 10-13, 7.30pm in the main school hall. Tickets £10/£5 available from the Ripon Uniform Shop, Blossomgate, and Ripon Grammar School T: 01765 602647