Learning to operate a puppet character is not only technically difficult — it’s a full on workout.
“It’s really heavy and you have to do crunches for the plant to move forward or backward, and you do arm punches for the plant to talk,” said Grade 10 Walnut Grove Secondary student Erica Fang, who plays Audrey III in Theatre in the Grove’s production of Little Shop of Horrors.
Audrey III is one of several iterations of a wicked plant that has a thirst for human blood. The plant is portrayed by different life-sized puppets, which are mechanically operated by students inside. The voice of the plant is done by another student outside.
“Inside the puppet, it’s really dark. But since I’m not the voice of the plant, it’s really hard sometimes to figure out when I should move the plant. It takes a lot of time to incorporate this with the character of the plant, so it’s a lot of synchronizing and memorizing,” said Fang.
“There’s definitely a bit of a disconnect as you don’t say any of the lines,” added Grade 9 student Paul Virtue, who plays Audrey IV.
“There’s someone else reading out lines, so it’s kind of like lip syncing to someone else. You have to memorize the lines, but you don’t say them. You have to move to the lines. It’s interesting. You’re speaking but not really.”
Little Shop of Horrors runs April 5-7 and 12-14 at Walnut Grove Secondary, 8919 Walnut Grove Dr.
The musical follows the story of Seymour Krelborn, a poor young man who works in a florist shop. He acquires a plant, similar to a Venus flytrap, and soon discovers it requires human blood to survive.
“I just like how the audience doesn’t know what to expect,” said Grade 10 student Kaitlyn Peters, who plays Audrey III with Fang.
“It starts out having nothing to do with the plant, and then there’s a plant and it eats blood, and then by the end it’s eating people.”
“We wanted to do something different,” added musical theatre instructor Janelle Castro, who is also choreographer of the show.
“This is a darker, more sober comedy than what we’ve done in the past.”
There are 79 students featured in the production, with four doing tech, two helping with costumes, and the others on stage. There is a live orchestra as well featuring 10 students under the direction of Shane Fox.
“The class is really inclusive,” Castro said. “Many have never been on stage before, and many have never danced before.”
Retired teacher Susan Wilson Murray is providing the costuming, while Chad Hendricks takes the lead on music, and Danielle Meshen on directing.
The plant puppets are loaned to the school by Vagabond Players, which did the same production last October.
All evening performances of Little Shop of Horrors begin at 7 p.m., and a special matinée will be held April 14 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults; $12 for students/seniors. They can be purchased online at theatreinthegrove.brownpapertickets.com.
Dinner and the show performances are offered April 5 and 12. Dinner seating is between 5:30 and 6 p.m., followed by the performance. Tickets are $30 for adults; $25 for students/seniors. Dinner will be a three-course buffet style prepared by students in the Youth Train in Trade/VCC program.
For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 604-882-0220 ext. 580.