A plant steals the show in Liberty High School’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors’

April 24, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

Pam Edmonds (left) is Audrey and Tucker Goodman is Seymour in Liberty High School’s production of ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’ By Tom Corrigan

This is likely to be the only play put on by any high school where the actors have a good chance of being upstaged by a plant.

A very lively, talking, singing plant, but still a plant.

Liberty High School is presenting the musical spoof “Little Shop of Horrors” at the school starting April 27. There are five more shows through May 5.

For those who don’t know, “Little Shop” is based on the exceptionally cheesy, cult horror movie of the same name. At its center is a plant that feeds on human blood. In the musical, it’s all tongue in cheek, of course.

“It’s definitely been an experience,” said senior Sheady Manning-Bruce, 17, who actually plays the plant, Audrey II.

The plant is clearly evil, feeding on humans, Manning-Bruce said. But he felt he had to give Audrey II a personality that reached beyond being merely evil. And at the same time, Manning-Bruce acknowledged he is playing a plant that greatly limits his movements. He also has to deal with all of the special effects that are going into creating Audrey II.

Normally, when putting on “Little Shop,” those producing the show will make use of the original stage design for Audrey II, said director and Liberty drama teacher Katherine Klekas.

Production companies can rent an Audrey II. But Klekas said that rent can run into thousands of dollars.

For the Liberty shows, volunteer Steve Canaga designed and created a whole new Audrey II. Canaga no longer even has students at Liberty, but likes working with the drama department enough that he continues to help out with shows, Klekas added.

According to Klekas, Canaga has been working for months with technical director Jason Tribby, costumer Susan Canaga and a visiting artist from the Seattle Children’s Theater, Annett Mateo. The design for Liberty’s Audrey II is being kept under wraps. Manning-Bruce doesn’t say much except that there are a lot of puppeteers involved in bringing the plants limbs and vines to life. In publicity materials, Steve Canaga declined to explain how the puppet will work.

“What I will say is that you will not look at plants the same way in the future,” he said.

If you go

Little Shop of Horrors

  • Liberty High School
  • 16655 S.E. 136th St., Renton
  • 7:30 p.m. April 27-28 and May 3-4
  • 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. May 5
  • Tickets at the door: $12 for adults; seniors and students are $10

Klekas was happy to allow a reporter with a camera into a recent rehearsal. But she insisted the bits of Audrey II on stage not be photographed. She described the plant as the show’s “big reveal.”

Besides Manning-Bruce, the show’s other lead roles belong to senior Tucker Goodman, 18, as Seymour, the owner and keeper of Audrey II who gets seduced by the fame the plant eventually brings to him. In a bit of a switch from the norm, two actresses are playing the human Audrey, Seymour’s secret love interest for whom the plant is named.

Senior Pamela Edmonds, 17, and senior Sierra Hunt, 17, will alternate performances, each taking three turns as Audrey. For the remaining shows, the actresses will take a place in The Ronettes, a female doo-wop group that acts as a sort of Greek Chorus for the show.

Goodman has been in every production done at Liberty since his freshman year. That’s about 12 or more shows, he estimated. He also has acted outside the school, last year winning The 5th Avenue High School Musical Theater Award for Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role. After graduation, Goodman plans to continue acting — he’s heading to Seattle Pacific University to major in theater.

As for the two female leads, neither minds in the least sharing the role. Klekas took the unusual step of splitting the performances because she said she had two outstanding candidates and just couldn’t choose between them. The Ronettes are onstage quite a bit, with several singing and dancing numbers. Both Hunt and Edmonds had to learn two big roles and do twice the rehearsing. But, predictably, neither had any reservations about the extra effort.

“Both parts are awesome, just different,” said Edmonds, who also plans to continue in theater beyond high school.

“It takes more focus,” Hunt said of playing two big parts.

She said each actress plays Audrey a little differently. It’s a different show, Hunt said, depending on who is playing the female lead.

“It’s been a hugely challenging process,” Klekas concluded regarding the staging of “Little Shop.”

But she said she and others at the school have wanted to do the show for a while and decided now was the time.

“We had the opportunity and we just went for it,” Klekas said.

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