What’s big and green and has a voracious appetite for human blood? Thankfully, it is something that only exists through the puppeteer on the stage of Carrollwood Players Theatre for the musical, “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Through masterful manipulation of the plant puppet by Kym Welch, combined with the voice of Kelly Clow, the cantankerous, R&B-singing carnivore plant, Audrey II, is alive and well, craving her next meal and poised for world domination.
Running through Sept. 27, Little Shop of Horrors is a horror and rock-n-roll musical comedy, directed by Matt Bravo and produced by Frank Stinehour.
Through the magic of set designer James Cass and his building crew, the stage has been transformed into skid row and Mushnik’s flower shop, run by the socially awkward, down-and-out floral assistant, Seymour, played by actor Oliver Sprague.
For Cass, who has had no formal training in set building or dressing, the magic comes naturally. He loves the process of transforming a blank stage.
“The biggest challenge for Little Shop has been making removable walls for Audrey II,” he said.
The acclaimed musical plans to mesmerize patrons and have guests singing along with the popular tunes.
“The audience should expect to laugh and be humming the tunes as they leave the theater. We have a top-notch cast with cracker-jack comic timing, and the singers we were able to gather are phenomenal,” said Miguel Rodriguez, who plays the sadistic and less-than-sane dentist, Dr. Scrivello. “Some years ago, I played Mr. Mushnik, which was fun, but it was nothing compared to the fun I could have as the dentist. It’s an opportunity to be a complete lunatic on stage, which is very liberating.”
Little Shop of Horrors had a mini preview at a standing-room-only fundraiser for the plant at BurgerMonger, in Carrollwood just a few weeks after casting. With little rehearsal, Oliver and Erica Heiden, playing Seymour’s love interest, Audrey, still captivated the audience with the show stopper “Suddenly Seymour.”
At the close of their Feed Me fundraiser on Aug. 24, through Power2Give and multiple other internal and external avenues, the theater was able to exceed their $6,000 goal.
“We are absolutely thrilled with the outcome and couldn’t have succeeded without everyone who donated — our incredible sponsors who love Carrollwood Players Theatre as much as we do,” said Jennifer Martin, board member and fundraising committee member.
Behind the scenes, costume designer Chris Dietz has been busy preparing for the show. In community theater, oftentimes the costume budget is small or requires much creativity reconfiguring costumes from past shows. Chris explained that she relishes doing things that others think cannot be done. Ideally, six to eight weeks is the perfect amount of time for dressing a show, but sometimes the final pieces of costumes come down to opening night.
“The beautiful part of costuming is that your work makes you a part of a collaboration. I get to take the director’s vision of a show, and amplify the visual. The actors are busy breathing life into the characters, and I try to listen to the actors, while taking into consideration who the characters are becoming,” Dietz said. “When I bring in costumes for trying and fitting, actors’ physical beings actually change. If the costume is correct, their body language takes on the character.”
Carrollwood Idol first runner-up is the lovely and overwrought Audrey. Erica auditioned for the part because it was one of her favorite movies.
“There’s something very cathartic about performing, especially if you’re not afraid to embarrass yourself and really leave it all out there on the stage. Plus, I love making people laugh,” she explained.
Attendees should expect a fun and family- friendly show despite the premise of a man-eating plant.
“The thing I like best about “Little Shop” is that it’s a show made up of characters. Each performer can bring an extra energy to the stage without being a classical singer or musician. When it all comes together, and the cast reaches the audience, this show has a magic and infectious spirit that no other show can match,” said director Matt Bravo.
Little Shop of Horrors runs through Sept. 27, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights and 3 p.m. Sundays. Advance tickets are available at www .carrollwoodplayers.org or at the box office for $23 per regular ticket and $20 for senior/student and military.