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'Little Shop of Horrors' really tends to grow on you

Tuesday night's opening performance of the entertainingly grisly show "Little Shop of Horrors" served up all the elements that audiences have come to expect and delight in.

The play is silly and fun. With caricatures aplenty, it is a spoofy send-up of musicals in general, with an emphasis on '50s-style music.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it takes place in down-and-out Mushnik's flower shop, Skid Row, USA. A nerdy boy meets a misunderstood girl while cultivating carnivorous plant.

Plant eats girl's sadistic dentist-boyfriend. Nerdy boy gets girl. Last but not least, plant eats them all in bid for world domination.

As Audrey, Liz Pearce is a bosomy bombshell who is as skittery as a mouse. It is easy to see why Seymour (Jim Poulos), an orphan with low self-esteem, wants to be in her orbit. Poulos and Pearce are able to show how, as two shop employees, they provide each other with solace even when, on the surface, they seem so different.

Mr. Mushnik (Darin DePaul), the nearly dried-up shop owner, shows his true colors when he adopts Seymour only once he and his wildly popular new plant specimen become profitable. DePaul makes the most of his character, as he offers some lines in Yiddish and follows Kathleen Marshall's choreography in executing some funny body language and dance moves.

The first and last characters seen are a trio of young women, called The Urchins. Chiffon (Iris Burruss), Crystal (Badia Farha) and Ronnette (Latonya Holmes) are street-wise neighborhood denizens who serve as a Greek chorus, appearing in various scenes. Their doo-wops and sh-boops serve to narrate and comment on the goings-on. They are sassy and funny, helping to move the play along.

The puppetry that provides the ever-growing, gourdlike plant named Audrey II is remarkable. Its blood lust causes it to grow from a potato-sized thing into a gigantic watermelon-shaped entity with writhing limbs and a gaping maw. As it demands more, it become clear that, if blood were gasoline, this thing wouldn't be getting very good mileage. Two bad guys later, it still isn't happy, and once it acts independently, things go downhill.

And the "happy" ending is really a dire message for mankind. "Don't Feed the Plants," the finale, finds all the main characters dead and the plant well on its way to eating not only Cleveland, but Des Moines, Peoria and New York. Oh, and don't forget Buffalo!

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>Theater Review

"Little Shop of Horrors"

Review: Three stars (out of four)

Runs through Sunday in Shea's Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St.

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