- Edgefield County School District
- Edgefield County School District
Merriwether Middle School Seventh-Grade Student Ty’Aijah Johnson Gives ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ Villain Big Voice
Johnston, SC – One of the largest audience ovations following Strom Thurmond Theatre’s performances of Little Shop of Horrors has been reserved for an actor who doesn’t step onstage until the musical is over, but without her the musical would not soar as high as it does.
Ty’Aijah Johnson is only in the seventh grade, but her rich, booming voice has given the musical’s alien villain, the blood-thirsty plant Audrey 2, a life that is equal parts manipulative, soothing and sassy. Today (Nov. 12 at 3:30 p.m.) is the final opportunity to see Little Shop of Horrors. You may purchase tickets for the final performance by visiting sttheatre.ludus.com.
“Before the audition I had no idea what Little Shop of Horrors was,” said Ty’Aijah. “I watched the movie two days before auditions to get an idea of what the voice of my character should sound like. My voice couldn’t go that deep, but I knew it could go deep enough.”
In the popular cult film, the voice of Audrey 2 belongs to actor Levi Stubbs.
“I changed it to just a half step above his voice and gave it my own little twang and style and gave it my own personality,” she said. “I also looked at other versions of Little Shop of Horrors and plenty of them had girls playing Audrey 2. I wanted to stay closer to the movie, though.”
Ty’Aijah says she had no idea what to expect from audiences and wondered how they would feel about her portrayal of Audrey 2. She didn’t have to wait very long. After Strom Thurmond Theatre’s very first performance for theatre patrons, she had her answer.
“It’s been so fun to do, and I was very surprised everyone liked it,” Ty’Aijah said. “After that first show I was like, wow, this could really be something good. I was so happy with the results we had last weekend, and everyone has been so kind. It feels great.”
Ty’Aijah is just one of a talented group of actors who bring Audrey 2 to life during Little Shop of Horrors. Mason Toothman operates Audrey 2 behind the scenes, ensuring the plant’s movements are synchronized with Ty’Aijah’s dialogue, while also playing one of Skid Row’s most convincing street urchins. Earlier in the production, Olivia O’Gorman and Truman Massey operate a smaller version of Audrey 2 that convinces Seymour, played by Dawson Kulp, to feed it human blood.
Keeping Audrey 2 moving can be taxing at times, but Mason says he enjoys the challenge.
“I try to position the plant so I can see Ty’Aijah and see when she breathes in to perform the dialogue,” said Mason. “For the second act toward the end of the musical I can’t see her, so I have to remember the lines. It’s worked out really well.”
Olivia and Truman have their own specific challenges while operating the smaller Audrey 2.
“The hardest part is probably trying to stick my hand through that hole because I have to lean my neck back so I can watch Dawson, so I know what to do with my hands, and it’s a very awkward position,” Olivia said. “I like how I can move around and interact with Dawson even though I can’t talk as the plant. We just worked out how we would go back and forth to make it really fun. It’s changed a little bit with each show because Dawson will do some different things.”
“A lot of it is just reaching up your hand through there and trying to control it,” said Truman. “The fun part of it is watching it come to life and seeing how it grows later in the show. This role has really changed my perspective on the show.”