Carina Myrand, Marisa Thomas, Dylan Bunten and Jade Rayner give life to Audrey II puppets in McNary’s production of Little Shop of Horrors opening this week. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes 

One of the central players in McNary High School’s Little Shop of Horrors isn’t even a real person, but it takes a team to bring him to life.

The role of the blood-thirsty plant puppet, Audrey II, is handled by three puppeteers, Carina Myrand, Jade Rayner and Marisa Thomas, and voiced by Dylan Bunten.

The play opened Thursday night at the Ken Collins theater and continues its run Nov. 9 to 10 and 15 to 17. Evening performances begin at 7 p.m. with 1 p.m. matinee shows on Nov. 10 and 17.

“I knew we needed to have character with the plant, but I didn’t actually think about how much you have to put into the plant to make it a character and not just a puppet,” Rayner said.

Finding ways to express human traits through several pounds of felt and metal has been educational, to say the least.

“Everything that we would do as actors has to come out through the plant. I’m sitting in there and tilting my head and moving my lips to the line while I’m in the puppet,” Myrand said.

The script requires Audrey II to grow over the course of the play and three different sized puppets are used in each showing. He starts out as a hand puppet given life by Rayner, who sits inside a cupboard and moves Audrey through a hole in the counter. The adolescent version is a full-on costume worn by Myrand.

“People have to come and see the show for my awesome pants. My toes come out through the bottom of the vines,” Myrand said.

The full-size Audrey requires Rayner and Thomas to join forces as the upper and lower jaws.

“When they delivered the puppets they told us one girl handled the big one by herself, but it’s huge and heavy. It takes both of us,” Thomas said. “It’s fun making him do the little things like rub up against Seymour’s leg like a puppy.”

Bunten loans his voice to Audrey. He takes inspiration from seeing Broadway vet Anthony Rapp play Seymour Krelborn in an off-Broadway production.

“Since then I’ve seen a few high school productions of Little Shop and I always came away thinking I could do Audrey II better. Now it’s my chance to see if I can,” Bunten said.

The voice, too, has its challenges.

“It calls for a very deep, low voice, but at the same time the singing parts are in a higher range,” Bunten said. “There’s also been a lot of working with the microphone to give it a more monstrous, big feel.”