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Not into puppet shows?

How about one with a giant, malevolent octopus-faced elder god who hibernates beneath the ocean, psychically communicating to humans through their nightmares, and slowly driving them mad?

Oh, and it's a musical comedy.

Puppeteers for Fears, an Ashland-based puppet musical horror troupe, will perform "Cthulhu: the Musical!" Friday night at the Majestic Theatre.

"It's definitely a goofy show with a lot of comedy, but we're taking the medium very seriously in a way I don't think that many people have experienced," said artistic director Josh Gross.

Most people hear the words "puppet show" and automatically assume they will see a sock puppet performance designed to entertain children. Gross said that, while they have seen young children in the audience at past performances, it is not intended for kids. If it were a movie, he said, it likely would be rated PG-13 for adult language.

And Puppeteers for Fears specializes in this sort of genre mashup.

"Sci-fi horror-comedy shows are our go-to," says director and puppeteer Beth Boulay.

Typical Puppeteers for Fears production titles are ones like "Ritual Murder: The Musical" and "Cattle Mutilation: The Musical."

The troupe's multimedia performances feature puppetry, original stories, live music, digital backdrops and elaborate costumes.

It launched its first production during Halloween of 2015 and mostly performed its short pieces and musicals in Ashland and surrounding areas before it began to tour last year in Portland and Seattle.

The Corvallis show will come on the heels of its biggest West Coast tour, based largely around performances at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

"We sold out (the shows) before we even got there, and I feel like that is a major milestone for us," Gross said.

For that the troupe brought back "Cthulhu: The Musical," a show it performed at least 30 times last year in Ashland and on the road.

The musical is based on a 1929 short story, "The Call of Cthulhu," by horror author H.P. Lovecraft.

Gross said the original story doesn't have much of a plot or strong narrative, and it's definitely not funny.

"The puppets are very self-aware of what's happening, and we've turned it into this really unexpected comedy with a lot of songs that explore the spookiness," he said.

The musical follows characters Detective John LaGrasse, who is trying to solve a murder, and Professor Francine Thurston, who is searching for her uncle, Henry Angell. Angell vanished years ago while trying to help Henry Wilcox, a young artist, who was driven mad by Cthulhu's nightmares.

There is a growing romance between LaGrasse and Thurston, as they attempt to solve a murder mystery, cope with a growing sense of terror and dread and sing "a lot of really comical songs," Gross said.

Its story is narrated by Burt, an amorphous blob and demon servant of Cthulhu, who sets little traps for the others to fall into.

The cast also includes a pair of anarchist sailors, Capt. Collin and his first mate, Jenkins. The two provide the comic relief, Boulay said.

"And finally, we have Cthulhu, the main event. The giant demon, who lives beneath the ocean, with the face of an octopus and the strutting attitude of Kid Rock," Gross said.

Boulay, who plays Detective LaGrasse, is one of the five puppeteers who provide the voice and movement for seven main characters, as well as assorted little demons. She is joined by Rachel Routh (Burt and Cthulhu), Alyssa Mathews (Thurston), Reece Bredl (Jenkins and Angell), and Forest Gilpin (Capt. Collins and Wilcox).

Gilpin, an Albany native who is currently attending Southern Oregon University in Ashland, is the newest member of the company. Locals may have seen him perform in Albany Civic Theater's "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street" in spring 2017, among other mid-valley productions.

"He (Gilpin) has taken to it really well, because he has a great feel for the movement," Gross said. "We're thrilled to have him on board and show him off to his hometown."

Production designer Aubrey Hollingshead creates digitally projected backdrops instead of physical set pieces. These backdrops have their own stories and sometimes include Easter eggs and gags, Gross said.

"It's not always something that is immediately apparent. Sometimes you have to look at it for a while," he said.

Some of the projections make subtle visual references to movies like the Indiana Jones series. One scene set in LaGrasse's apartment features a subtle reference to "Sesame Street."

Hollingshead took the background image from Bert and Ernie's Sesame Street apartment, and removed one of their beds to make the room look sad. It's as if LaGrasse "is going through some existential issues at the time," Gross said.

Puppeteers for Fears also has a three-piece rock band, which features a guitarist, bassist and Gross as drummer to perform the 12-song original score. The musical includes everything from slow jams and marches to a heavy-metal finale.

Boulay said there is a big push for puppetry in theater right now.

"I think it's really indicative of how we as a society need to express ourselves better. Puppets allow a filter you don't normally get," she said.

Gross and Boulay love what they do, in part because there's not much competition currently in the genre of science fiction horror comedy musicals being performed by puppets.

The two said they often receive the same reviews from audience members after the show. Gross said a typical reaction goes something like this: "Thank you for doing something different. I was not expecting that at all."

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