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A 4-prop carnivore to die for

By NICK JOHNSON
Published May 2, 2007


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American Stage in the Park's production of Little Shop of Horrors is in its final week, and time is running out to see its famous star in action.

Audrey II, the man-eating plant that has become synonymous with the production, is the product of several talented individuals who have come together to bring it to life.

The plant is actually four props, ranging in size from one that fits into a coffee can to one that is about the size of a small car. Three of the four are operated by Charles McKenzie, and all are given voice by Sharon Scott.

The main props were rented by Scott Cooper, American Stage's production coordinator and prop man, from CBC Creative, a company outside Orlando that rents only Audrey II puppets. .

"These have been great. Everybody loves them, " Cooper said. "They have been lining up at the end of the play to get their picture taken with the big one."

Scott Cook of CBC Creative said renting Audrey II is common practice among the 400 to 500 companies that license the play each year.

"Most people who go to do the show don't have the money or resources to be able to build something like this, " Cook said. The set of plants that appear in this play alone took three months to build.

The props have been crafted from a special packing foam, fabric and paint. The two final stages of Audrey II are big enough for the operator to sit inside. This hot and labor-intensive job is reserved for McKenzie, who brings Audrey II to life in its last incarnations by crawling inside the prop.

"I'm sitting in that thing, still for 30 minutes before I get to do anything, " McKenzie said about the smaller of the two props he sits inside. "It's pretty tight. I can move my head a little bit, but besides that not much else."

The final prop is the most intense to operate, McKenzie said. It weighs about 100 pounds when he's standing up. He loves the response the plant gets from the audience. He waits, sweats and uses everything he has to make sure Audrey II moves the way she sounds.

Scott, Audrey's voice, is in charge of giving this fantastic creation a persona that sounds as big as it looks. She also plays off McKenzie as the two make Audrey II believable.

"Charles is really energetic. He's kind of a bouncy kind of guy, " Scott said. "You have to play off of that."

Scott, who never appears on stage, said that 99 percent of the time, she and McKenzie do not see each other. Still, they manage to bring Audrey to life, so well that sometimes parents end up making a trip backstage after the play to show their kids that Audrey II is really just a prop.

Nick Johnson can be reached at nickjohnson@sptimes.com or 893-8215.

'Horrors!'

Little Shop of Horrors continues through Sunday at Demens Landing. Performances are at 8 p.m. today through Sunday. Tickets range from $11 to $26.

For information call 823-7529 or visit www.americanstage.org.

[Last modified May 1, 2007, 19:44:00]


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