Local actress lives dream playing Audrey

click to enlarge Local actress lives dream playing Audrey
left: Kendall Hicks will star as Audrey in Saguaro City Music Theatre’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” (Drew Humphrey/Contributor)

Oro Valley/Marana actress Kendall Hicks has long admired “Little Shop of Horrors” heroine Audrey.

Now she has the chance to play her.

Hicks stars in the Saguaro City Music Theatre’s rendition of the musical from Friday, Oct. 13, to Sunday, Oct. 29, at the Berger Performing Arts Center.

Audrey works at a flower shop with Seymour, around whom the story revolves. She admires him, but she has a penchant for dating the wrong type of guy, such as sadistic dentist Orin.

The musical, which was based on the 1960 film and was adapted into a 1986 movie, follows Seymour as he finds a mysterious plant, which brings him fame but is out for blood.

He names the plant Audrey II, after Audrey, on whom he has a crush.

His boss, Mr. Mushnik, enjoys the glory and money the plant brings to the shop, but he doesn’t realize the costs.

The musical is set in the 1960s and features various styles of music, including pop, rock, doo-wop and Motown. The soundtrack includes “Skid Row (Downtown),” “Suddenly, Seymour,” “Feed Me (Git It!),” “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Dentist!”

The show will have four plant pods, which will increase in size as the show progresses. The first three will be operated by one puppeteer, Matt Milne. The fourth and largest puppet will be helmed by three puppeteers.

The Saguaro City production will be directed by Drew Humphrey and choreographed by Dena DiGiacinto. Kyle Dixon is acting as scenic designer and Lindsay McDonald as costume designer.

The show also stars Danny Fapp as Seymour, Christopher “Topher” Younggren as Mr. Mushnik, Tyler Wright as Orin and Wesley Geary as the voice of Audrey II. Sarah Chico, Venus Tayné and Erin Anderson will play the Urchins.

Hicks has previously worked with Fapp in Saguaro City’s production of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.” She said that already having a connection with him helps when playing love interests Audrey and Seymour.

“Audrey is a troubled character. ... She’s with this abusive boyfriend for the first part of the show. Seymour just wants to make her happy, but she’s not quite so easy to trust at that point,” Hicks said.

“It’s not quite so easy for her to open up her heart so willingly. It’s great that I have someone like Danny, where we are able to really take those intimate moments and make them really sweet. It’s really important for shows like this, where there are such terrible things happening to your characters, that behind the scenes you feel safe, and you feel comfortable with the people you are working with.”

In the show, Hicks plans to use a higher-pitched New York accent for Audrey. She isn’t trying to copy others who have played Audrey, such as Ellen Greene, but

she said an accent is important to her portrayal.

“That’s a challenge that I’ve been working through: how to make Audrey my own while also paying homage to why she is so iconic and why so many people connect and resonate with her,” Hicks said.

Audrey’s personality also comes through in her slightly tacky style. At one point in the show, Kendall will don a purple leopard-print dress.

Hicks plans to highlight Audrey’s kindness toward those around her.

“You just can’t help but love her, because she is so kind throughout everything she has experienced, which I think is such an admirable thing. She could have easily turned spiteful or angry about the situations that she has been in, but she remains kind and continues to be gentle to everyone around her. She doesn’t want anyone to suffer the way that she has. I think that that’s such a beautiful thing about her character. She’s a beacon of hope in the show, especially for Seymour,” Hicks said.

Hicks has played a variety of roles, including Dot in “Sunday in the Park with George,” Lady Macbeth in “Macbeth,” Plankton in “The SpongeBob Musical,” Christopher Belling in “Curtains,” Miss Honey in “Matilda the Musical,” and Julia Trojan in “Bandstand.”

Her father is one of the owners of the haunted attraction Slaughterhouse. Since she was 8, she has performed as spooky characters there.

She won the Southern Arizona High School Musical Theatre Award, or “Monte Award,” for Best Actress in 2020 and 2021.

She started performing at a young age. She started out with Kids Unlimited, where she started to develop skills, such as singing, dancing and acting.

One of her first shows was “The Sound of Music,” in middle school, in which she portrayed a nun.

She continued to do theater throughout high school and in college, and performed with local theater companies

Hicks attended Marana High School her freshman year and switched to Ironwood Ridge High School in Oro Valley the next year. She went to Pima Community College for three semesters.

Hicks first saw “Little Shop of Horrors” when her good friend played Audrey in a Pima Community College production.

“I thought it was such a cool show, and Audrey was such a cool, unique character. The story is so iconic and so beautiful. It brings so much joy to so many people. I love being part of something like that, especially with that gorgeous score,” Hicks said.

In Saguaro City’s production of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” she played the jingle singer and stepped in last minute to act as a foley artist.

“I love a good challenge. I just tackled it head-on and tried my best to embrace it. I think it went pretty well. ... I found out very quickly that I have a knack for it. They seemed to really like what I did. I had to make a cat meowing sound. I had to make a car horn sound,” Hicks said.

Hicks found that Saguaro City offered a very supportive environment for the cast.

“I feel like these shows at Saguaro City do such a good job of fostering a community within their casts. It’s such a happy environment, and you really feel like you’re making something special,” Hicks said.

Saguaro City Music Theatre’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors”

WHEN: Various times Friday, Oct. 13, to Sunday, Oct. 29. Audio-described performance 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22. Open captioning 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29

WHERE: Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway Boulevard, Tucson

COST: Tickets start at $25

INFO: 520-809-5729,