Actors D. Wiley Jones and Alex Drissell with a more manageable “Audrey II” (Steven Denlinger Photo)

Summer musical shines satirical light on serious subjects

Drama Dock has been growing a garden of humor starring carnivorous plants and professional actors for its summer musical, “The Little Shop of Horrors,” opening Thursday at Vashon Center for the Arts’ Kay White Hall.

“I love this show,” Director Susan Hanson said. “It’s a satire on science fiction, B-movies and a retelling of the Faustian tale, but mostly it’s funny, musically excellent and one of the best Off-Broadway shows.”

The award-winning musical is set in a run-down flower shop in an urban skid row, where orphan Seymour pines away for the love of his life, his co-worker Audrey. Audrey would return the affection but for her abusive boyfriend Orin.

Meanwhile, after a total eclipse of the sun, an exotic plant — dubbed Audrey II by the love-sick Seymour — appears in the dreary shop. As it turns out, Audrey II can talk and soon converses with Seymour while thriving on drops of his blood. That notable fact inspires Seymour to hatch a plot for saving his beloved Audrey.

As the plant grows, so does the fortune of the shop, as does Seymour and Audrey’s relationship, which blossoms after the inexplicable disappearance of Orin. But like the classic Faustian story, when you make a bargain with the devil — or a man-eating plant — eventually you pay the price.

“It’s clever satire with an ethical message: Situational ethics lead to unethical outcomes,” Hanson said.

Like all good satire, the show tackles a serious topic through exposure, exaggeration and ridicule that can lead to side-splitting humor.

“You laugh out loud when the (bad) guy gets eaten,” Hanson said. “The first time the cast watched the rehearsal, they all laughed but also said, ‘Oh my God, they just ate the person.’”

According to producer Steven Denlinger, actress and Drama Dock board member Bonny Moss helped choose the show primarily because of her own experience with domestic violence. Hanson credits Moss for sharing her story with the cast, which helped them add depth to their characterization.

This is Hanson’s third time directing the musical, and she raves about her cast, which includes New York-based professional actor D. Wiley Jones playing Seymour; Alex Drissell, who starred as Roxie in Drama Dock’s popular production of “Chicago,” also directed by Hanson; and of course, the carnivorous plants.

“The four man-eating plants are the big thing — beginning with a hand-puppet up to the 6-foot plants that are taking over the world,” Hanson said.

As for the Faustian pact, lyrics from the final scene illuminate the danger with a good helping of humor: “Hold your hat and hang on to your soul. Something’s coming to eat the world whole. If we fight it we’ve still got a chance. But whatever they offer you … Don’t feed the plants!”

Cast members include D. Wiley Jones as Seymour; Alex Drissell as Audrey; Martin Feveyear as Orin; Mick Etchoe as Mr. Mushnik; Calen Winn as the voice of Audrey II; Porter Daniels as puppeteer for Audrey II; Adrienne Mildon as Crystal; Joy Ghigleri as Ronnette; and Megan Murphy as Chiffon.

Hanson directs the show produced by Denlinger. Maggie Laird is musical director, and Craig Hanson designed and constructed the sets. Drama Dock is renting the professional puppets from Music Theatre International, which owns the performance rights to the production.

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