Audrey II, the people-eating plant protagonist of Harlequin Productions’ Little Shop of Horrors, is a role too big for one person.
If the horror-comedy rock musical is Faust in a florist shop, Audrey II is Mephistopheles.
Christian Doyle and Maggie Ferguson-Wagstaffe team up to play the vined villain, which grows to a height of nine feet thanks to a series of increasingly larger puppets. The cast also includes Amy Shephard as one of the Doo-Wop Girls, an update on the Greek chorus, and former TV actor John Serembe as Mr. Mushnik, owner of the florist shop where Audrey II comes to live.
The 1982 show, based on a low-budget 1960 film by Roger Corman, is perennially popular with theaters everywhere–so much so that five cast members have done the show at least once before. This is the fourth time for Rich Garrett, who plays Orin, the sadistic dentist.
The innovative Audrey II puppets were constructed by Bruce Haasl of Olympia, who has appeared as an actor on the Harlequin stage himself and now serves as technical director at Tacoma Musical Playhouse.
Doyle, well known for his skill with physical comedy, voices Audrey II, and Ferguson-Wagstaffe, an actress whose face will be familiar to Harlequin regulars, goes into hiding to operate the puppets. (Both appear onstage, too, in minor roles.)
They are a couple offstage, and the onstage collaboration has been easy, Ferguson-Wagstaffe said.
Her challenge is the heat inside the avocado-like puppets. “I have a huge CamelBak (hydration pack), so I can drink water the entire time,” she said.
What: Little Shop of Horrors
Where: State Theater, 202 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia
When: 8 p.m. June 23-26, June 29-July 2 and July 7-9, 14-16, 21-23 and 28-30; 2 p.m. June 27 and July 3, 10 and 17
How much: $25-$43.50 (the June 29 performance is pay-what-you-can)
Get tickets: 360-786-0151 / harlequinproductions.org