Understanding the Monster: Inside LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS with Puppet Coach Matthew Sitz

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By Matthew Sitz

I’ve been a part of eight productions of Little Shop of Horrors at a myriad of theaters – and no matter how many times I work on this show, one thing always has to remain the same for the production to be successful – with all of the details and minutia, it’s important to remember that telling the story always comes first.

It doesn’t matter if your Audrey II cost a million dollars to build, is rented from a previous production, or was built on a DIY, tiny storefront budget; if the audience can’t connect with Audrey II and understand her emotions and motives, your production is going to suffer.

I always approach the show thinking about how each puppet gives life to the story using its own design, rather than trying to figure out how to force a different puppet into some mold of a past production’s choreography and puppetry.

Pictured: Audrey II sketch. Photo courtesy of The Mercury Theatre.

In this production, Walter, our director, is really interested in highlighting the musical’s pulpy, b-movie, horror elements. There’s such a cult following around Little Shop because of these elements–going to the show has the feeling of seeing a fun midnight screening with all of your friends. It’s this super fun blend of silly science-fiction horror and comedy that makes for great entertainment, and those elements are all things we’re looking to really play up in this version. I think you’ll see that in all aspects of the production; not just in our approach to Audrey II.

You always want to keep the show fresh, and this is true for actors too. When it’s a popular musical or a play that audiences may have seen before, you’re always looking for a way to offer them something surprising, something that they haven’t seen yet. Thankfully, each director I’ve worked with has had very clear ideas about the story and how to approach it, and Walter’s no exception. That really helps me working with the puppet, because it becomes a greater conversation that goes beyond “what does the puppet need to do, mechanically” and delves deeper into the ideas behind what the audience needs to think and feel about Audrey in each given moment. And of course, each cast supports Audrey II and connects to her in their own way.

With Little Shop of Horrors opening, I hope that audiences can get lost in the show for a few hours and take a break from all the other noise they might have going on in their lives. I hope they’re surprised by Audrey II’s character. The message is pretty clearly summed up during “Don’t Feed the Plants” – think about what you’re wishing for, and realize we should all be a bit more careful in trying to get what we want without earning it first.

Matthew Sitz (Audrey II Puppet Coach) is excited to work with Mercury Theater Chicago! This marks his eighth production of Little Shop as the puppeteer. Chicago credits include: Once On This Island (Drummer) and Putting It Together (Drummer) at Porchlight Theatre, and Little Shop of Horrors (Puppeteer) at American Blues Theater. Regional credits include: Pajama Game (Hines), Lil’ Abner(Lil’ Abner), and Wizard of Oz (Scarecrow) at the Ramsdell Theatre. Matthew works as the Director of Audience Services at Court Theatre, and would like to thank his family, especially his two-year-old son, Bodhi, and everyone at Court for supporting him.

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