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Little Shop of Horrors out to thrill at Northern Stage

We meet some of the people behind SA Productions' latest show which features rising stars and a very hungry plant

John Millard Lewis Denny plays Seymour and Eleanor Faye Audrey in the Sage schools little shop of horrors
Lewis Denny plays Seymour and Eleanor Faye Audrey in the Sage schools little shop of horrors

Up-and-coming talent, seasoned professionals and a man-eating plant are aiming to present a sensational show at Northern Stage.

Little Shop of Horrors is the latest from SA Productions, the production arm of Byker’s Sage Academy where stagestruck youngsters learn performance skills from professionals.

Seasoned director Ian Waller, whose credits include Singin’ in the Rain and Mamma Mia!, has worked with a young Sage Academy cast to bring Little Shop of Horrors to the Newcastle stage (the original show premiered in 1982, inspired by a 1960 American comedy horror film).

During a rehearsal break, Ian was confident audiences would be entertained, perplexed and perhaps a little horrified.

“We’re keeping the show as it was,” he said.

“We’re not faffing around with it. We’ve set it as the original, in the style of a B-movie in the 1950s. It is dark, but the cast are caricatured characters – and the tunes are great!”

Despite having been in Newcastle for just three weeks, after a stint in Australia with Walking With Dinosaurs, Ian said he recognises the talent at the Sage Academy and the North East’s theatrical heritage.

“To get the talent of these kids out there is so important,” he said.

John Millard Little Shop of Horrors director Ian Waller
Little Shop of Horrors director Ian Waller

“You don’t have to go to London to get theatre training. There are a few theatre companies nearby that are trying to say to kids that acting is affordable, and there’s as good training here as there would be if you went down to London.”

All the cast of this production, following last year’s Sunshine on Leith, are Sage Academy students apart from one professional puppeteer.

“The kids are so talented,” said Ian. “I think the audience will be very impressed when they see it.”

Eleanor Faye, a 21-year-old from Newcastle, cast as the tunefully carnivorous Audrey, has a series of star-studded performances under her belt and already has a local acting contract.

Eleanor began acting when she was four but has been a full-time Sage student for the past three years. She played a lead role in Sunshine on Leith.

To others considering an acting career, she said: “Just do it. There’s so much stuff to do as well! We’re getting loads of new work and there are new theatres opening.

“Even though we have had 100% funding cuts to the arts budget, there is quite a lot of work being funded. There is work out there for you and it is growing so just jump in and take part!”

Lewis Denny, aged 19, from Alnwick, plays naive Seymour, the creator of one hell of a blood-sucking plant. He has been a Sage student for over a decade and in 2013 appeared as a lead character in The Wiz, a motown Wizard of Oz with an urban twist.

Recently returned from a UK tour of Sing-a-long-a Frozen, he said he will not be watching the movie again.

Confident when working with professionals, he said: “I love hearing their stories. I like to know the ins and outs of people, especially when they’re a well-known name in a big show. It’s nice to hear them and meet them.”

He added: “It has truly been a real pleasure to work with Ian. He has done a lot of things and worked with some great people.”

Optimism and hopefulness shine through ahead of the first performance.

Ian admitted: “I’m excited but nervous. I know it won’t fall on its face as it’s really very good. It’s just that this is my baby and I’ve given it to these kids who are amazing.”

Lucy Sage, principal of the Sage Academy said: “We are extremely excited about this production. I think it’s one of the best musicals around and never fails to entertain audiences of all ages.”

Little Shop of Horrors is at Northern Stage on Tuesday, May 19 and Wednesday, May 20 at 7.30pm. Buy tickets via www.northernstage.co.uk or tel. 0191 2305151.

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