Audrey II ready to chew the scenery

by April Helms | special products editor Published:

The actors at Hudson Players will be sharing the stage with a carnivorous plant during its final show of the 2012-13 season.

Well, all right, it's actually a puppet. Or, to be more specific, three puppets.

Alex Nine, who is co-directing the theater's production of "Little Shop of Horrors," said that there will be three versions of Audrey II -- a hand puppet, a human-sized version and a third, larger one that can expand.

"Little Shop of Horrors" will open April 26 and run through May 18 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with one Sunday matinee May 12 at 2 p.m.

The largest of the three is surprisingly light, Nine said. This is a boon for Michelle Dolciato, who will be controlling the plant from inside.

"I was in a production of 'Little Shop' in college, and I operated the plant," he said. "It was heavy. There was a harness you had to strap yourself into. It was a workout. It was a really heavy plant, and really hot inside. It was summer stock theater. Chris Dolciato, who is our music director, operated the plant the last time Hudson Players did the show, and he said it was very heavy then. Now his wife is operating the plant."

Gary Maher, one of the producers for the show, said this Audrey II is "the best engineered plant I've ever seen."

"We are pretty lucky," he said. "It not only looks good but it's easy to operate. The last one, it was all muscle."

Michelle Dolciato said that she was operating the smallest Audrey II, which is a hand puppet, as well as the monster-sized plant that comes out later in the show.

"I volunteered," she said. "Some of the challenges are getting it to move with the voice and giving it a personality."

Billy Stopczynski of Kent, who is lending his voice to Audrey II, said this is the first show he has ever done.

"The same week auditions were held, I was at On Tap, and Jared [McGrath, who is playing Seymour] happened to be there, and he remembered me from karaoke and said I'd be perfect for the role, that my voice would be great. Chanda [Porter, co-director and choreographer] also encouraged me to audition."

Stopczynski said he was "having a lot of fun with it."

"I look forward to rehearsals, and the days I don't have rehearsals I feel I should be doing something," he said.

Adam Alderson of Kent, who is playing the store owner Mr. Mushnik, said that this was his first show at Hudson Players, but has appeared in shows elsewhere, such as at Weathervane and in college at Bowling Green.

"I've always been a big fan of the movie, although I had never seen the stage show," Alderson said. "It's been about seven years since I've done a musical."

Alderson said his character is "somebody who wanted to be successful but life hasn't been kind to him."

"To be fair, he hasn't been very kind to the people he works with so perhaps he deserves a bit of what he winds up with. He has a gruff nature, but that probably comes from him being in the rough part of town."

Tom Cirner of Stow, who plays the sadistic dentist Orin, said he saw the stage version of "Little Shop" at Stow-Munroe Falls High School last year.

"I saw the dentist and said 'that's me, I want to be the dentist,'" Cirner said. "Sometimes when you see a play, you see these roles you really want to play, and that was the case here."

Cirner said a challenge with the show is the singing.

"The singing is a bit tough," he said. "You have to laugh and be crazy but you still have to be able to sing."

McGrath, who lives in Akron but grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, said he has wanted to play Seymour for 15 years.

"It has eluded me until this point," McGrath said. "I've wanted to be in this for a very long time. The music, rock and roll, is more fitting to my voice than traditional musicals, and I like that Seymour doesn't have to be 6 foot tall and thin, the stereotypical leading man, and I am neither."

McGrath said his character "gets attracted to the thought of power and the idea of having it all, and gets sucked into a lifestyle that isn't for him, out of desperation for money and the girl."

"I like playing darker, so when he starts getting seduced by the plant, who is telling him it's OK to kill people, I like that," he said.

Porter, who lives in Cuyahoga Falls, said this was the first show she had co-directed. She and Nine had co-directed the shows in Weathervane's 8X10 Theatre Festival last summer, which featured 10-minute plays, and Nine asked her to work with him for "Little Shop" as co-director and choreographer.

"Ever since I've been on stage, I've wanted to try," she said. "I've always had thoughts about how I might like to do things, how I might have done something differently."

Porter said that while directing is hard work, she has enjoyed the collaboration with the other actors, and getting their feedback about the show.

"You definitely have to be more positive when you are in charge," she said. "You have to keep a positive attitude when you are running the show. This is definitely a change because you are your own worst critic. This has been a great experience. I think it will make me a different actor.

"I won't be so hard on my directors," she added and laughed.

Ticket and show information

Tickets are $14 general admission and $12 for students and seniors.

Hudson Players is in the Barlow Community Center, at 41 S. Oviatt St. in Hudson. For details, call 330-655-8522 or visit www.hudsonplayers.com.

Email: ahelms@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9438

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