If you go
› What: “Little Shop of Horrors”
› Where: Chattanooga Theatre Centre, 400 River St.
› When: 8 p.m. July 12-13, 19-20, 26-27 and Aug. 2-3; 7 p.m. July 18, 25 and Aug. 1; 2:30 p.m. July 14, 21, 28 and Aug. 4
› Admission: $11 to $30
› For more information: 423-267-8534
Feed the need for musical hilarity when the Chattanooga Theatre Centre opens its season-ending production of "Little Shop of Horrors," the deviously delicious sci-fi smash about a man-eating plant. The musical opens Friday, July 12, continuing through Sunday, Aug. 4.
"Little Shop of Horrors" features an electrifying 1960s' pop/rock, doo-wop and Motown score performed by a cast of 14, including a Greek chorus that guides the audience through the story.
As the story goes, meek Seymour Krelborn is working as a clerk in cranky Mr. Mushnik's run-down flower shop on New York City's Skid Row. Feeling worthless and unappreciated, things take a turn for the better when he stumbles across a new breed of plant resembling a Venus flytrap at a local market.
He buys the strange plant, names it Audrey II after the co-worker on whom he has a crush, and places it in his employer's shop window to attract customers. His plan works, and soon masses of patrons are flocking to the store to see the mysterious plant.
What Seymour neglects to mention is that the foul-mouthed, R&B-singing plant has an unquenchable thirst for human blood, which multiplies its growth from a tiny potted plant to a human-sized monstrosity. As long as Seymour keeps feeding its appetite, the menacing plant promises him fame, fortune and most of all, the love of Audrey.
Audrey, a pretty ingénue whose fashion sense leans toward the tacky, has problems of her own. She longs to leave her abusive boyfriend, a sadistic dentist who drives a motorcycle, wears leather and enjoys bringing other people pain. A perfect meal for a man-eating plant.
Over time, Seymour discovers Audrey II's out-of-this-world origins and intent toward global domination. The madness culminates with Seymour and his bloodthirsty plant in a feeding frenzy of epic proportions.
Guest director Magge Cabrera Hudgins, music director John Echols and choreographer Jessica Laliberte-Bowman lead a cast of CTC favorites and newcomers, including Garrett Henson-Hinck as Seymour and Genna Raborn as Audrey.
The character of Audrey II is played by a series of increasingly larger puppets, one a small potted plant, the second slightly larger and the third large enough to hide a person inside (Annabel Hudgins and Makenna Jordan in alternating performances). The puppeteers move the plant's mouth in sync with Audrey II's voice, supplied by offstage actor Donel Solomon.
The rest of the cast includes Fiona Barrett, Gabe Biser, Alex Ford, McKenna Hardin, Kade Harrod, Destin Tyler Henry, Abbey Keesee, Jordan Kristan, Ed Ober and Gwen York.
For tickets or more information: 423-267-8534 or TheatreCentre.com.
THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN
Count Donel Solomon among the leads in “Little Shop of Horrors,” yet audiences will never see his face.
As the voice of Audrey II, the man-eating plant in the musical, he’ll be just offstage behind the curtain watching the action as he voices Audrey II.
Solomon, 25, is familiar to CTC patrons for his role as the Tin Man in “The Wiz.” After recently earning a degree in criminal justice from East Tennessee State University, he’s employed with Unum.
“‘Little Shop of Horrors’ was one of the first shows I ever saw, and it got me into doing musical theater,” Solomon credits. When he learned the CTC was auditioning actors for the show he went, “because I just wanted to be part of it. This was definitely a role I did not expect.”
So having never done a voiceover before, how did he come up with Audrey II’s sound?
With the help of bathroom acoustics.
“I sat in my bathroom at home and practiced (Audrey’s lines) over and over and over. I would listen to myself and think ‘I like that’ or ‘No, not that.’ Finally I heard the one that I said ‘That’s it.’”
Solomon said he has based Audrey’s voice more on the tone or theme of the plot, rather than changing his intonation as the sprout grows into a maneater. He says he drew inspiration from the raspy edge in voices of Fats Domino and CeeLo Green.
From where he sits offstage he is able to see all action onstage, including Annabel Hudgins and Makenna Jordan, who alternate as the puppeteers manipulating Audrey II. The two puppeteers pair staging they’ve memorized with the intonation of Solomon’s voice to create their characterization.
“Audrey II is so deliciously evil, that the hardest part of playing the plant has been having fun, but not breaking character. It’s me trying to grasp that I have to portray a plant that’s eating people and taking over the world. It’s fun to be that evil plant that’s pulling the strings.”
— Compiled by staff writer Susan Pierce