Bloodthirsty green giant steals the stage

By Blair Stalder

April 21, 2012

Steve Catron has a very deep voice. [caption id="attachment_10549" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Audrey 2 grows by the minute in the play "Little Shop of Horrors." Photo by Jason Brown."][/caption] In fact, he probably has one of the deepest voices in the theater department. When director of upcoming play “Little Shop of Horrors” Dallas Henry was looking to cast different characters, the script called for a deep-voiced person to play Wino #1 (a drunk). Catron more than likely came to mind. Expecting the role, Catron accepted Wino #1. Little did Catron know the script also called for the same person playing Wino #1 to be the puppeteer of the famous maneating plant, Audrey II. “Fate got to you on that one (Audrey II’s role),” Jeff Jones, voice of Audrey II, said. “Yeah fate…and puberty,” Catron joked. Four unique plant props will be joining the “Little Shop of Horrors” cast Thursday night in which director Dallas Henry acquired from New York City through Musical Theatre International. “The plant is the show,” Henry said. While Jacob Mills, playing Seymour Krelborn, takes hold of teenage Audrey II during a musical act, Catron will mainly be controlling Audrey II in its earliest and last stage. Henry said Catron needed to understand the meaning of comedic timing as he and Mills will each bring the plant to life by nipping it at other characters and snapping for blood. Henry said Catron has mastered this factor, which is one of the reasons why he cast him as the commander of Audrey II. “Steve has timing — that’s what I need as a plant,” Henry said. Henry also saw Catron’s dedication through Catron’s dismissal of a partner. The recommendation for working the mature six-foot-long Audrey II creature is two puppeteers or at least someone who is 6 feet 4 inches. Catron is not 6 feet 4 inches tall, yet the former Scrooge didn’t let his height hold him back. Henry said Catron was adamant about doing the entire thing by himself. As of now, he has been working really hard during rehearsals. Unfortunately, Audrey II has not been available for all the rehearsals. So far, Catron has only been working with the plant for about two weeks. Instead of sitting back, Catron decided to join rehearsals with his own homemade “plant.” For the first two weeks, Catron was using a sock puppet until the plant came in. Catron’s “Audrey II-partner-in-crime,” Jones, enjoyed seeing Catron’s face when Henry debuted the beastly costume that takes at least three people to push on and off the stage. “His hand was not even close to what this thing is actually going to be — it was really kind of laughable because once we saw it, we said ‘Wow Steve, you have in no way prepared yourself for this,’” Jones said. Catron, unlike the cast, was not tickled by his future costume. “They were all laughing — I was dying on the inside,” Catron said. Catron could almost be literally “dying on the inside” as a synonym for the costume is a sweat box; the interior is covered in fur. The one and only word Catron could say about the plant was “hot.” Let’s not forget that there are lights constantly shining down on the stage, therefore “cooking” Catron. He does not and will not wear a shirt when he is inside Audrey II; when he is finally allowed to exit the plant, Catron is tomato red. While enduring the heat has been his main challenge, having the strength to open and close Audrey II’s mouth has not been easy either. “It’s all of my muscle, or lack thereof; it’s me using whatever strength I can manage,” Catron joked. During Act I, there is a long song where Audrey II moves a lot, which is why Henry created a break during the song to allow Catron to switch arms. Catron can’t do his job by himself; that’s where Jones comes in. Because Jones is the voice, these actors have had to work together to make sure they are in sync. Henry said Catron has had to know the lines, laughs and sighs down to a tee, and Jones can’t add anything, no improvisation is allowed. Catron also has to remember even how Jones says and sings the lines. “Everybody watches plant to see if it’s synced up, so it’s very important, and (Catron and Jones) realize that,” Henry said. They have to take cues off of each other, Catron on stage, Jones off stage watching a monitor with a microphone; Catron can be a little bitter about this fact. “So while (Jones) is in his own little quiet room eating Cheetos and having fun by himself, I’m on stage sweating my butt off in a plant,” Catron jokes. Jones has given Catron a lot of kudos, telling him he’s been doing a good job and that he’s impressed. And Catron isn’t the only one receiving props. Henry has also talked Jones up, saying he never knew Jones could sing. Both sides of Jones’ family sing, so Jones grew up around it. He’s never taken singing lessons; Jones had to develop his singing voice into Audrey II’s singing voice, which he says has been an interesting process. Jones is ready to get the show on the road. And to debut his singing voice for his mom, who has never heard him sing before. “We’ve practiced so much and so hard, I’m just ready to do it in front of an audience.”