by Nancy Holley
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Think you know Little Shop of Horrors based on the movie or high school productions you may have seen? Think again! Symbolism and nuances abound in the Corey Ralston directed version at the Ice House.
The setting begins in gray scale giving it a film noir, which according to Borde and Chaumeton (2002) frequently denotes the “strange, erotic, ambivalent, and cruel”. Want more? What about a Doo Wop trio as the Greek chorus? Intrigued? You should be.
Seymour Krelborn’s (Sean Hopper) rescue from an orphanage by flower shop owner Mr. Mushnik (Sergio Garza) may have been a two-edged sword. Seymour falls in love with Audrey (Lindsay Tweed), the shop assistant whose taste in men leaves much to be desired. Audrey’s amour, the Orin Scrivello, D.D.S. (Henry Gonzales) is rotten to the core, leaving Audrey battered and bruised.
Hopper jokes that he originally auditioned for the role of the dentist because of his voice range, but choral director Nicole Devol heard something in his audition that changed everything. Gonzales, who has bad guy anxiety, was cast as Scrivello, so goes theatre!
Tweed sees Audrey as a Betty Crocker lady who wants to have a picture perfect life. Unfortunately, Audrey is looking in all the wrong places. Tweed loves the play because it does not take itself too seriously. “The point of the show is entertainment, but you can still lose yourself in the emotions of the characters.”
When Seymour begins to feed his dying plant, Audrey II (voiced by Auggie Hernandez), blood, by accident initially, the fortunes of the flower shop begin to change. As Audrey II becomes Seymour’s avenue to his love’s affection, the story takes a dark turn. “Darker than the movie,” says Ralston.
Hernandez, who invites roles that stretch his talents, finds being the voice of a blood-eating plant his most different role. He describes Audrey II as a villain who begins by manipulating to achieve her goals and turns to black mail when the chips are down.
Ralston was originally scheduled to direct The Full Monty in this time slot at the Ice House, but had casting difficulties. His switch to Little Shop of Horrors was no accident. He could envision the actors he had cast in The Full Monty portraying roles in Little Shop of Horrors. His casting worries were over, but there were challenges. When an actor auditions for a show and is cast, expectations are set. When those expectations are dashed, new ones have to be established. “Being an actor makes me a better director. I know what they are going through and understand their process.”
“There are many newcomers to the Ice House in our cast,” Ralston proudly notes. The major characters are supported by an ensemble who play many roles and double as puppeteers. Audrey II is portrayed through four puppets at different life stages that are controlled by cast members. Hernandez will be in the light/sound booth as he provides the voice for Audrey II. Visual contact allows him to synchronize his voice with puppet movements.
The cast of fourteen is supported by a four member band: Ann Aakre – keyboard, Gary Benjamin – drums, Chris Haberman – bass, and Eric Engbrecht – guitar.
On Sunday March 23 after the matinee, “Back Stage at the Ice House” will be hosted by Sharon DeCoux, a veteran Visalia Player. Audience members will have an opportunity for a behind the scenes look at the show and the opportunity to ask questions and interact with cast/crew.
Little Shop of Horrors opens at the Ice House Theater at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 14, 2014 and runs for three weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 3/14, 3/15, 3/21, 3/22, 3/28, and 3/29 and matinees at 2:00 p.m. on 3/16, 3/23, and 3/30.
For more information about the Visalia Community Players and to purchase tickets, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 734-3900. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.
Check out more local theatre reviews this week right here in KRL & even more theatre reviews & articles in our Arts & Entertainment section!
To purchase two tickets for the price of one, enter KRLTFM in the Have a code? box on the Buy/Redeem Tickets Reservation page via the Players website Ticketing information page.