Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Backstage at "Little Shop of Horrors"

Gina Wilhelm Actress - Backstage at "Little Shop of Horrors"

I had the pleasure of attending "Little Shop of Horrors" at ACT (A Contemporary Theatre), a co-production with the 5th Avenue Theatre.

The show was done with the usual level quality one expects from ACT and 5th Ave, full of great singing and acting, clever lighting and sets, and expert direction.

However, the treat for me was taking a backstage tour with Audrey II puppeteer Eric Esteb.

Eric showed me (and my mom, also a puppeteer) all four puppets used in the show. The final puppet was under a drape, but we did get to look at its back.

The third puppet, which is the one used in "Feed Me" was in full view, and I even go to feel it.

Eric graciously told us his favorite part of the show (eating people), and how that works.

He told us about the technical aspects of operating the two larger plants. I had thought he got to leave the stage when the plant is more "dormant," but that was not the case, and in fact, he's on stage for all of act II.

The puppets used for this production are based on the original puppets designed by Sesame Street performer Martin P. Robinson (who is probably best known for performing Telly Monster), though are made from lighter weight materials than were available in 1982.

Eric also revealed that the largest Audrey II puppet was too large to fit in the rehearsal space, so rehearsals with that puppet occurred in another room

He also would rehearse one-on-one with that puppet with Ekello J. Harrid, Jr., who voices the killer plant. The effort showed, as their lip synch was very good.

After looking at the puppets, Eric and Jason (a stagehand whose last name I sadly didn't get) graciously showed us the area under the stage.

There are several set pieces moved in through trap doors on hydraulic lifts, and Jason's job is to raise and lower them using a console that looks, as Eric put it, like the inside of the Tardis.

These lifts also facilitate a few entrances and several exits, and it was very neat to see.

I am grateful to both of them for letting us see the inner backstage workings of this terrific show.

When you go to the show, check out Eric's curtain call. Quite possibly the best curtain call I've ever seen.

When he isn't acting, singing, or puppeteering, Eric is an aerialist whose work can be seen at TheInnamorati.com.

"Little Shop" runs at ACT in the Falls Theater (700 Union St., Seattle), and tickets are $29 to $74 and can be purchased at 206-292-7676 or acttheatre.org.

The show runs until June 15, so there's still time to catch it.

Eric, Gina, and Jason backstage at ACT
Gina Wilhelm Actress