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Phoenix presents a new and darker take on Little Shop of Horrors PDF Print E-mail

What do you get if you combine a plant with a taste for human flesh, a hapless florist, catchy rock tunes, and a director with a flair for originality?

Answer: a dark and imaginative twist on a classic black comedy musical.

Tracey Hutley directs Phoenix Ensemble’s unique take on the Broadway (and cinematic) hit, Little Shop of Horrors, which runs over five weekends at Beenleigh’s boutique Pavilion Theatre from 8 August.

The show tells the story of a mild-mannered florist who inadvertently raises a plant (named Audrey II) that feeds on human flesh and blood. Tracey, who directed last year’s smash hit The Full Monty, recognised early on there was an even darker side to the musical – even beyond the carnivorous plant!

In the traditional telling of the story, the Ronnettes (the three quirky vocalists) are essentially narrators, but in Tracey’s interpretation, they – and Audrey II – become voices in Seymour’s head as he struggles with his psychotic tendencies.

‘It’s been really interesting to see all the characters develop and to identify how well the script actually lends itself to this more layered retelling,’ Tracey says.

‘The idea of exploring that darker element really interested me, and I knew the cast would enjoy the challenging process of keeping true to the story but still putting a new spin on such a well-known musical. For me, staging a show is as much about developing characters and work-shopping ideas as it is about delivering a great final product that audiences can enjoy.’

Directing shows with puppets is becoming somewhat of habit for Tracey, who helmed the adults-only Avenue Q in 2012, for which 29 puppets were created. This time around, the show only has four, but the final version of Audrey II fills most of the stage.

‘The key difference between the two shows is the fact that the plant puppets in Little Shop are on a much larger scale and need to have different mechanisms – including the ability to swallow people!

‘The weight of the plants is quite heavy and Blake Russell’s job of manipulating the puppets is one of the most physical roles in the show.’ (Doug Rumble provides Audrey II’s voice.)

Tracey is particularly proud of the way the 13-member cast has pushed themselves to bring together what promises to be another ground-breaking Phoenix show.

‘Some of the music in particular is very tricky and the cast is doing a great job bringing the show together. The Ronnette's (Heather Scott, Kate Doohan and Jo Mikkelsen) do an amazing job carrying most of the vocals throughout the performance. And Scott Johnson's portrayal of Seymour is also outstanding. His stamina in delivering the "crazed" personality is so intriguing to watch.’

Tracey is confident fans of the more traditional interpretation of Little Shop of Horrors will still get a kick out of the show.

‘They will definitely enjoy the songs – they just need to come with an open mind to look at the production in a whole new light.’

Little Shop of Horrors features musical direction by Casey Chadwick and Nick Ng, and choreography by Heather Scott 


Venue:                     Pavilion Theatre, Beenleigh Showgrounds, James Street, Beenleigh

7.30pm:                  8, 9, 15, 16, 21 22, 29, 30 August; 5, 6 September

Tickets:                   $24 adult; $22 concession, $20 child (under 15)

Bookings:               3103 1546 or online: www.phoenixensemble.com.au

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 July 2014 09:51
Are you ready for the most terrifying experience in live theatre? E-mail

For more than 25 years, The Woman in Black has been lauded as the most terrifying live theatre experience in the world, and next month the spine-chiller comes to Beenleigh.

Phoenix Ensemble presents the hugely popular West End play over four weekends, opening 2 May in the intimate (and atmospheric) Pavilion Theatre.

wib2img 0596 smallThe Woman in Black is the story of Arthur, a man trying to come to grips with disturbing events of his past. As a junior solicitor, he was summoned to a bleak house for the funeral of its sole inhabitant, a mysterious woman with tragic secrets. Now, years later, he's desperate to exorcise the ghosts from that encounter.

While the play explores themes of isolation, death, loneliness and revenge, it also offers a glimmer of hope through the characters' journeys.

Director Steve Pearton (who directed last year's much-loved It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play) is relishing the chance to delve into darker territory with the psychological thriller.

"I think people relish a good scare (on stage or on screen) for a number of reasons: we seek a distraction from the daily routines of life; we want to counter social norms; we seek an adrenaline rush; and we hope to voyeuristically glimpse fright from a safe distance. We revel in leftover childhood fears that still reside in our subconscious, like archetypes. Watching a play or a movie allows us to experience these fearful emotions from a distance, in the knowledge that we can safely exit the theatre when it's all done.

"I have plenty of archetypal fears residing in my unconscious, so what better way to play with those fears than by telling a ghost story? Apart from that, the bottom line is that it is a great story."

While Hollywood uses special effects and camera angles to ratchet up tension in horror movies, live theatre brings other dimensions.
"The Woman in Black is a ghost story, and the best ghost stories are all about what you do NOT see," Steve says.

"Lighting and sound effects obviously help, but in this production it's also critical the audience has an emotional connection to the characters.

"The biggest challenge I had was finding the appropriate balance between engaging the audience on an emotional level and getting the scare factor right. A great series of scares are all well and good, but if the audience doesn't care about the characters or their journey, it's all for nothing. Fortunately, my cast (Alex Milosevic, William Boyd, Maranne McQuade and Jermia Turner) has been up to the challenge."

Steve points out the play is not for everyone, given the nature of the production. "While there's no profanity or violence in the show, it is a horror story. There are no gushes of blood, but there's plenty of psychological tension. It's definitely not suitable for young children."

But for audiences who love quality live theatre and crave a nerve-shredding thriller, Steve says: "Embrace the fear!"

"Phoenix has a well-deserved reputation for producing a wide variety of interesting shows; productions that are not your run-of-the-mill 'drawing-room comedies'. The Woman In Black is certainly not your standard community theatre piece, so I hope it will be embraced as something unique and above all, entertaining."

Alex Milosevic
William Boyd
Maranne McQuade
Jermia Turner

The Woman in Black
Venue: Pavilion Theatre, Beenleigh Showgrounds, James Street, Beenleigh
7.30pm: 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23 and 24 May
Tickets: $26 adult; $24 concession

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 16:40
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