SARANAC LAKE — It’s supper time.
The Saranac Lake High School students will perform “Little Shop of Horrors” this weekend.
The comedy musical follows Seymour Krelborn, a meek gardener working in a mediocre flower shop on skid row. His boss doesn’t think much of him, and his crush is in an abusive relationship with a sadistic dentist. After a life of being the underdog, Seymour comes across a strange and interesting plant that he showcases in the flower shop’s window. Business takes off to enormous success, but things turn sinister after the plant starts talking and asking for food — HUMAN FLESH!!!
“Little Shop of Horrors” is well known for its 1986 film adaptation starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene and Steve Martin.
The plant is named Audrey II, after Seymour’s crush, Audrey. It goes through multiple stages during the show. First, it’s just a little thing that would make Baby Groot from “The Guardians of the Galaxy” insecure. Next, it’s the size of an average house plant. Later, Audrey II is big enough to eat human limbs. And finally, the carnivorous plant becomes so massive two people have to operate its mighty maw. It’s the Venus flytrap of nightmares.
It takes three people to make Audrey II come to life. Emma Wood and Lindsey McCreadie manipulate the plant, and Owen Casler provides the voice.
Wood said she doesn’t have prior experience with puppets, but she is a fan of Jim Henson’s Muppets, especially Kermit the Frog. She puppeteers Audrey II in its third stage. This requires donning a giant flower costume with a gaping mouth and two rows of sharp, robust teeth. Inside, Wood uses both arms to open and close Audrey II’s mouth, and you can see her face in the back of its throat. Offstage, Casler says the lines and sings the songs.
“I have to be able to see him, but I also have to know the lines because I have to be tracking people with the puppet head and moving it while moving the puppet’s mouth,” she said. “I’m really excited for people to see the puppet. Matt Sorensen (from Pendragon Theatre) put a lot of work into building all the puppets, and they are, like, amazing.”
During the show, Casler is offstage in a pseudo-ventriloquist role, providing Audrey II’s boisterous lines through a microphone. At rehearsal, and without amplification, Casler projected and echoed through the high school auditorium. Like Wood, he said this is a new experience for him.
“Usually, I just act as my one character, do my one part and move around on stage,” he said. “But to have Emma and Lindsey as the puppets, we have to be in sync to actually have our lines look and sound good. If I’m talking and she’s moving the plant 10 seconds afterward, then it’s not going to look good. We have to keep perfect motion and tempo.”
Forrest Monroe plays Seymour to full geeky effect. He wears thick glasses, a sweater vest and Converse All-Stars. The costume is actually chic these days, but for the 1960s, when the original film was made, it’s dorky.
“I get to express myself in a different manner than I normally do,” he said. “I’m never typically the nerdy kid. I used to be, so I think I can embody it a little bit better than maybe other people, but it is a different mind state.”
Like the kids on “Sesame Street,” Monroe is mainly playing off an object instead of a person. He said it can be difficult. With real people, you can see each other’s emotions and facial patterns. With a puppet, you need to project those human traits onto its felt and foam rubber exterior.
“Absolutely; it’s something I’ve never had to do before,” he said. “It’s definitely a new experience talking to a disembodied voice. The voice comes from right offstage, so I can’t look at him at all, and it’s definitely weird.”
UPDATE: Cast change for Thursday show
There has been a casting change for tonight’s performance of “Little Shop of Horrors” at the Saranac Lake High School.
Senior Sarah Samperi will play Audrey in the Thursday night show. Sophomore Angie Gonzalez will return to the lead role for the Friday and Saturday performances, and Samperi will step back into her original part as one of the four “urchins”/ensemble singers.
School administrators declined to state the reason for the change.