Stellar performances steal the show at Cornard school’s Little Shop of Horrors production

Thomas Gainsborough School's production of Little Shop of Horrors
Thomas Gainsborough School's production of Little Shop of Horrors

A dark comedy involving man-eating plants in a run-down florist ... add in a host of musical numbers and you get one of the stranger shows I’ve seen.

As strange as the plot may be in Little Shop of Horrors, there was plenty of energy displayed by pupils at Thomas Gainsborough School in Great Cornard.

Zara Hearnden as Tiffany with Oliver Hughes as Seymour in Thomas Gainsborough School's production of Little Shop of Horrors.

Zara Hearnden as Tiffany with Oliver Hughes as Seymour in Thomas Gainsborough School's production of Little Shop of Horrors.

On stage, it was clear the pupils were thoroughly enjoying themselves, right from the named parts through to the backing dancers and singers.

There were some stellar performances, not least from Oliver Hughes, who played the leading character Seymour.

Seymour is a love-struck florist’s assistant who stumbles upon an incredible new plant species.

I’m always impressed when someone can hold character (and an American accent) throughout, to the point that you’re not sure they are acting at all.

Thomas Gainsborough School's production of Little Shop of Horrors

Thomas Gainsborough School's production of Little Shop of Horrors

He was clever and witty and created great on-stage relationships with love-interest Audrey (Zara Hearnden) and his boss Mrs Mushnik (Gemma Deacon), who both excelled.

Vocally, the best was saved until last, as the voice of Audrey II (you have to see it to understand) took over.

All night, there had been some great musical performances but, although she may have remained backstage, her soulful voice filled the hall.

Hopefully, in the next production, she can land a part where we don’t have to wait until the second half to hear her voice again.

Oliver Hughes as Seymour with Gemma Deacon as Mrs Mushnik. Thomas Gainsborough School's production of Little Shop of Horrors

Oliver Hughes as Seymour with Gemma Deacon as Mrs Mushnik. Thomas Gainsborough School's production of Little Shop of Horrors

There were proud parents, friends and staff clapping their hands and shimmying in their seats.

There were even some up dancing behind me, though I just about managed to contain myself.

The live band – made up of staff and students – which accompanied the performance deserves a special mention.

I was almost as engrossed by their talents and perfect timing as I was by what was happening on stage.

Thomas Gainsborough School's production of Little Shop of Horrors

Thomas Gainsborough School's production of Little Shop of Horrors

It really brought something extra special to the production and, if I had not been able to see them, I’m not sure I would have believed they were in a school band.

At the end, there was a huge amount of emotion as headteacher Wayne Lloyd shared an important message.

While the children spend hours rehearsing and rightfully take the plaudits, these shows would be nothing without the support of staff and volunteers who help guide the children, perform in the band, set up the lighting and sound or make teas for the interval.

Connor Crowley as Orin takes centre stage during Thomas Gainsborough School's production of Little Shop of Horrors

Connor Crowley as Orin takes centre stage during Thomas Gainsborough School's production of Little Shop of Horrors

Oliver Hughes as Seymour with Gemma Deacon as Mrs Mushnik.

Oliver Hughes as Seymour with Gemma Deacon as Mrs Mushnik.