Beast of a show

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DIRECTOR'S CHAIR: Theatre Whakatane’s Little Shop of Horrors director Trace Tidd says the production has thrown up all sorts of interesting challenges, including a smooth R’nB singing plant.

LITTLE Shop of Horrors may be a musical, but its quirkiness makes it very hard to box it in one genre, says its director Trace Tidd.

A bizarre mix of B-grade horror, comedy, romance, sci-fi combined with a toe-tapping score – it has got it all, she says.

Trace is well-known in the theatrical world as a vocal coach, but this is her debut as a director, and she says directing this outlandish musical, which opens tonight at Whakatane Little Theatre, has been enjoyable and thrown up all sorts of interesting challenges.

But after months of hard work, Trace says her job is done and she can take a step back tonight and let the production manager take over the reins.

As director, Trace has had to pull together the multitude of aspects to the show – music, lighting, set, sound effects actors, props.

Trace, who performed in her first show when she was 11, says she learned aspects of directing as a vocal coach and director in her work at

Stage Door in Whakatane. “But the main aspects that are totally new for me this time around are set and lighting design.”

Light plotting – how you use the lights, the timing and effects – was completely new to her. “The drama and story are the heart of the piece, but the lighting and set need to be right to help that.”

The director says a vast and skilled crew have been vital to pulling the show together and says her production manager Simone Ashton has had a massive role to play. “Without her I would have been overwhelmed by the task.”

Another challenging aspect has been the props – from the troublesome clock on the wall, to the dentist chair and the carnivorous plant Audrey II, who grows and grows throughout the show. “This is a prop-heavy show,” she says.

Puppeteer Olivia Mexted is in control of the plant, which starts off as a pot plant and grows throughout to a man-eating, foul-mouthed beast.

Its movements, explains Trace, have to be co-ordinated with its voice – from Calvin Kingi, who is backstage throughout and keeping an eye on the plant’s movements via a TV monitor.

But Trace says she is happy it is a small cast of only 11 actors. And that they are all so skilled and good-humoured has also augured well for a smooth production.

“The cast have been such a great lot of people to work with not only because of their talent, but personality-wise too.

“I have done loads of shows and my fondest memories are of small cast shows – there is more of a family feel; everyone is in it together.”

She says as director she has also allowed the actors freedom so they can bring their own take and creativity to a character. So what will audiences get out of Little Shop? “Audiences will be entertained. I also hope they will be tapping along to the music.”

The plant is a smooth R’nB singer and there is a trio of 60s doo-wop girls singing in tight harmonies. “The dentist is a little rock’n roll and the plant owner is Amercian Yiddish. They are an eclectic bunch.

“At its heart is a story of hope and desperation and desire. It is a love story that poses a challenge or question – how far would you be prepared to go for something you want.”

The show is two-and-a-half hours long and it challenges traditional music theatre – “you are not left with a beautiful, happy ending, but it does offer something for everyone”.

“There are loads of people who have seen musical movies like The Sound of Music or Grease and who came to the conclusion that they don’t like musicals. But musical theatre is a performance medium – not a genre.

“There are rock musicals hip-hop musicals, country musicals, opera musicals, rap musicals … you name it. And Little Shop of Horrors is a really quirky eclectic mix of styles.

“One minute it’s a B-grade horror, the next comedy, the next romance or sci-fi – ultimately it’s a bit of a spoof musical – perfect for musical lovers and non-lovers alike.”




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