‘Little Shop of Horrors’ to bring campy fun to Stuart’s this weekend and next

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NELSONVILLE, Ohio (WOUB) – What kind of musical is part sci-fi, part horror, part romance, and all laughs?

Little Shop of Horrors, of course!

Stuart’s Opera House (52 Public Square) opens their production of the classic horror comedy tomorrow.

The show tells the story of timid Seymour Krelborn, employee of the broke down and busted Mushnik’s Flower Shop in Skid Row. Just as Mushnik’s lurches towards the precipice of complete failure, an odd plant Seymour buys at another shop during a solar eclipse appears to turn things around.

Although Mushnik’s soon has long lines of customers due to Seymour’s plant (which he names Audrey II after his love interest, fellow Mushnik’s employee Audrey) the success doesn’t come without a sinister, otherworldly price tag. Chaos, murder, and hilarity ensues.

The flyer for Stuart's Opera House's upcoming production of "Little Shop of Horrors"

The cast and crew say the show has earned its beloved niche in the theater world for a few very good reasons – flashiness, campiness, and (last, but certainly not least) the progressively larger puppets who fulfill the progressively larger role of Audrey II.

Chloe Radar (who plays Crystal, one third of the show’s girl group Greek chorus) says from a technical standpoint, those puppets are nothing short of dazzling.

“At least to me, that’s just the coolest thing, just seeing people being able to pull that off and realizing that we are pulling it off,” she said. “That’s what really excites me.”

It goes without saying that Audrey II is an atypical role.

It’s a good thing actor Nathan Becker was looking for an atypical role after taking a considerable hiatus from theater. Being the voice of Audrey II was just right for Becker for all the right reasons.

“I wanted to get back into theater, but I didn’t want to have a huge role because I am a new father of a four-month-old,” he said, explaining that his role concerns the projection of his voice from backstage.

The Audrey II puppets talk, sing, and (spoiler alert) eat people.

Cam LaGraff (Seymour) said it is striking, to say the least, to see characters get “eaten on stage by this massive thing that has these big teeth and gaping red mouth – and you have to go head first!”

LaGraff says Audrey II’s innards have a different kind of wet, hot humidity; one that Carter Rice (Dr. Orin) likened to “Florida” and that Becker likened to “going headfirst into a boy’s locker room.”

Joking aside, the cast and crew of the production expressed real awe over the technical construction of the Audrey II puppets they were furnished for the production. Operating Audrey II is a two-puppeteer, one voice actor job. When Audrey II is chowing down, one puppeteer is making the plant “chomp down” on her victim while the second puppeteer is pulling the victim by their hand to drag them off stage.

The puppets came with a manual entitled How to Audrey II, which LaGraff likened to a “flight manual – with more diagrams.”

Sudman noted the puppets lend the production a tangible educational and professional benefit alongside being visually stunning.

“It’s really exciting to be able to offer this new skill that our actors and technicians can add to their papers,” Sudman said. “And it’s been a challenge, at times, to incorporate these puppets because they’re awkward – but it’s going to be a really cool feature.”

Sudman said the show’s propulsive pace is another reason Little Shop of Horrors is a perennial theater favorite. Part of that propulsion can be credited to the show’s music, which takes inspiration from early rock ‘n’ roll and Motown, as well as classic era doo-wop.

Stuart’s production of the show features a full live orchestra, directed by Sudman.

“It’s so important that we have live musicians versus using tracks for this show,” said Natalie Burkett, the show’s stage director. “There is just automatically so much more energy behind music that you are hearing being performed at that moment versus a recording. It’s more organic.”

LaGraff said the live orchestra really brings the show to life.

“I feel like I should be dead right now, but then anytime I get up on stage and the lights are there and it’s really hot and the orchestra is going in full force and the percussion is just hitting and the saxophones are blaring – it can’t help but give you energy.”

Stuart’s Opera House opens “Little Shop of Horrors” tomorrow. You can catch the production this weekend or next. Find more information and how to get tickets at this link.