LRT takes on a 10-foot task

Audrey II has taken root and she's hungry for human flesh. The 10-foot-tall man-eating plant will rear her ugly head at Crescent Elk Middle School for Lighthouse Repertory Theatre's production of "Little Shop of Horrors."

Joey Young stars as the plant's hapless caretaker, Seymour Krelborn. Amy Wood is the plant's namesake and Seymour's love interest, Audrey. Nick Corpstein will provide the voice for Audrey II. The play opens Oct. 19.

Audrey II's story is one of the most challenging plays the Lighthouse Repertory Theatre has done since its inception in 1978, said President Jenny Young. Every year the theater puts on five productions, including a spring musical and a fall play. What made "Little Shop of Horrors" a challenge is constructing the giant man-eating plant, Young said.

The theater could have rented an Audrey II puppet from Music Theater International, but it would have only had it for two weeks during the performances and maybe a week prior, Young said. Renting the puppet would have cost about $4,000 not including shipping, so Lighthouse Repertory Theater decided to build its own Audrey II.

"Audrey II is four different plants," Young said. "It has to grow throughout the show. So we have a small plant that's about a couple of feet high that you can hold. The next size up is about a 5-foot-high plant and then we have our big 10-foot-tall, 5-foot-wide man-eating Audrey II. She was built by Vinnie Christ."

According to Christ, two of the Audrey II versions will be hand puppets manipulated by the actors. The other two, including the 10-foot-tall plant, will have puppeteers inside. He and other volunteers spent every Sunday since July constructing the Audrey II puppets out of wood, PVC pipes, screen door mesh and spray foam.

When it came to building the large plant, the challenge was designing it in such a way that would allow the puppeteer to manipulate it without it being too cumbersome, Christ said. He and the other builders turned to the "Little Shop of Horrors" movie and several You Tube demo videos for inspiration.

"What we settled on was an idea where the thing is still big and heavy, but instead of weighing it down a person, instead of trying to carry the thing, the thing is lifting you," Christ said. "We used bungee cords to spring the mouth shut. You're pushing down on it and letting the bungee cords push the mouth back up."

Young requested that the biggest version of Audrey II not be photographed in advance so that the audience will be seeing it for the first time at the play.

Christ estimated that the cost of constructing all the Audrey II puppets at about $1,000. He said the materials used to construct the puppets were purchased locally, making it easier to find replacement parts should something break.

"Brandon Martin, he's the puppeteer," Christ said. "He's the sweaty guy in the machine."

This is the first time Lighthouse Repertory Theatre has produced "Little Shop of Horrors," Young said.

"When I was in high school the high school actually performed it," she said. "I wasn't in drama, but I really enjoyed the show. I loved the movie and as the president I want to produce shows that are going to appeal to theater-goers and non-theater-goers. I figured a lot of people know about the movie and would come see the show."

There will be a sneak-peak dress rehearsal for Little Shop of Horrors on Oct. 18. Tickets are $7 regardless of age, Young said. She suggested people get their tickets early, as the sneak-peak tends to sell out.

The show plays at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 19 and 20, and Oct. 26 and Oct. 27. Matinees will be performed at 2 p.m. on Oct. 21. and Oct. 28. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and students. Tickets can be purchased at Del Norte Office Supply, 240 I St., Crescent City, or at the door.

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