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Members of Hardin County Playhouse believe life beyond our planet is likely.
Whether they believe it will arrive on Earth in a manner that in any way resembles its latest production is another matter.
Man-eating alien plants, ’50s and ’60s rhythm and blues, a Greek chorus and a skid row flower shop are some of the elements woven into the storyline of “Little Shop of Horrors.” The HCP production opens tonight at Plum Alley Theater in the Historic State Theater complex in Elizabethtown.
“I’m actually a big believer in life beyond this planet,” HCP artistic director Bo Cecil said. Fellow crew and cast all indicated they believed alien life was likely or at least possible.
Alien life, Cecil said, might not necessarily be anything like what we imagine. That includes how it is imagined in HCP’s current production, “Little Shop of Horrors,” in which it takes the form of a blood-thirsty plant named Audrey II.
“We don’t believe this could happen,” Cecil said, explaining the incredulity is one of various elements combined with the likable musical quality that appeals to a wide audience.
Set on skid row, the play tells the story of a shy flower shop worker named Seymour who discovers a plant that boosts business. Unfortunately, Seymour comes to realize the plant is an alien life form that thirsts for human blood.
Trent Byers, who portrays Seymour, said the shy shop worker is “the ultimate nebbish character” and sees the plant as “his way out.”
“There’s not much going for him,” Byers said.
The storyline, he said, has a Faustian aspect to it. Faust, the subject of legend and literature, sells his soul to the devil for magical power, among other things, and ultimately pays the price.
Audrey, the plant’s namesake and Seymour’s co-worker, is a typical down-on-her-luck girl who “wants to please every guy who smiles at her,” actress Megan Kist said.
Kist considered the play fun like its ’80s movie counterpart, which was based on “The Little Shop of Horrors,” a 1960 film probably most noted for being the cinematic debut of Jack Nicholson.
“It’s such a silly idea, but it’s still relatable,” Kist said, explaining it involves a character facing some difficult choices.
In contrast to the sweet, caring Audrey, actor Andy Frueh said, is the dentist he portrays.
“He’s the ultimate sadist,” Frueh said. “He hurts to give himself pleasure.”
Providing a Greek chorus of sorts are the characters Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette, played by Alia McClendon, Angel Solomon and MacKenzie Blair, respectively.
“We narrate the story,” Blair said, likening the characters to the three Fates of Greek mythology.
“We always have something to say,” Solomon said.
“I think without us there’d be an emptiness,” McClendon said.
Cecil concurred, saying the characters carried the wisdom of the world not to mention a musical purpose.
“How many doo-wop songs do you know that don’t have backup?” Cecil said.
Another important vocal aspect of the play is that of Audrey II.
No stranger to the play, which he cites as a favorite, Josh Logsdon provides the deep voice to the puppet plant striving for somewhere between Otis Redding and Wolfman Jack.
“Mine is more Wolfman Jack,” Logsdon said.
Carrie Rhea, who operates three of the four Audrey II puppets, said she prepared for the role in advance by working out. The strenuous part requires moves such as squats and curls when she’s in the largest of the puppets.
“It’s harder physically than I thought it would be,” Rhea said.
Like her fellow cast and crew, Rhea cited the lively music and fun atmosphere as a drawing point for audiences.
And like her fellow cast and crew, Rhea doesn’t dismiss the prospect of alien life.
“How can we be so egotistical to think we’re it ... in the infinity of the universe?” Rhea said.
“It’s too big,” said Ron Blair, who plays the shopkeeper, Mr. Mushnik.
Kist said her personal view is no one knows what’s out there. Though she’s uncertain about life beyond this planet, she has her own hopes about it.
“I’d like to think that when we find it, it will be friendly and not try to eat us,” Kist said.
Robert Villanueva can be reached at 270-505-1743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
The Hardin County Playhouse production of "Little Shop of Horrors" is at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday plus 7 p.m. Aug. 22-24 and 3 p.m. Aug. 25 in the Plum Alley Theater in the Historic State Theater complex in Elizabethtown.
General admission tickets cost $18. For information or tickets, call 270-351-0577.