TAMPA, Florida. – In a way, “Little Shop of Horrors” – currently in production at Straz Center in Tampa – is a typical musical. It has catchy songs, memorable characters, and like so many modern musicals, it’s based on a movie.
But “Little Shop” has something different – a talking, singing man eating a plant named Audrey 2. Bringing this plant to life takes a lot of work and four puppets.
“There’s a total of four puppets,” said Ashley Lord, Audrey 2’s lead puppeteer.
Lord does not provide the voice of Audrey 2. This is from a backstage actor. Lord’s goal is to match his performance inside the costume with the voice of the plant.
“The most fun thing is imagining what the audience is going through, hoping they suspend their disbelief just enough to actually believe this plant is talking and that my lip-sync is precise enough that it can’t be interrupted. at the time,” Lord said.
Nicholas Hoop, who plays Seymour on the show, brings a smaller version of Audrey 2 to life.
“The biggest challenge with the puppeteer is not looking at it while you’re using them,” Hoop said. “You have to trust yourself, and you have to trust that you know what you’re doing… They want you to be active and in the moment while still being able to do it and not having to watch it all the time.”
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This production of “Little Shop of Horrors” was originally cast about two years and nine months ago, but the pandemic put it on hold. All the artists were able to be part of the show now that it finally took the stage.
“It’s the story of a whole community that’s down on their luck,” director David Jenkins said. “And all of a sudden, everything changes when this plant, a magical plant, appears from space.”
“Little Shop of Horrors” runs through May 1 at the Jaeb Theater in the Straz Center. For more information, visit https://www.strazcenter.org/