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Valley Players hope audience has appetite for 'Little Shop'

| Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007

In the language of flowers, forget-me-nots speak of true love, yellow roses translate to friendship, and daisies mean innocence. But when a blood-sucking, flesh-eating plant called Audrey II says "Feed me," its message is loud and clear.

The Valley Players of Ligonier will cultivate a performance of "Little Shop of Horrors" Friday through Aug. 12, adapted from the 1960 movie of the same name.

"The musical is different from the movie," says director Mary Mauzy. "There are some twists and turns in the musical. The audience can expect some really fabulous music. ... There's a love line sort of going on with this, but there are some definite science-fiction elements in it, as well, and some comedic moments. It's got something for everyone."

The action takes place in a skid-row floral shop where an employee named Seymour feels that fame, wealth and love never will be his. His luck begins to change when he purchases a potted plant on the street for $1.95.

"He kind of represents every man, where Seymour is looking for a way out of the bad things in his life," says Daniel Krack, who plays the nerdy character. "I think we all kind of look to escape those bad things that are happening in our lives, but we don't know how to do it."

But soon, the rare plant that grows him fame and fortune also grows an insatiable appetite for human flesh -- and for singing Doo-wop and R & B music.

"He wants fed. 'Feed me!' That's the premise of most of it," says Eric Harris, who gives the extraterrestrial plant its voice from offstage. "I told them there's no way I can do this part and sit. You've got to be standing to get the voice out there."

Harris, who is the manager and projectionist at the Ligonier Theater when he's not acting, has to match his singing and dialogue with the yellow lips of the swaying, leafy potted plant on stage. During the performance, the plant grows and becomes a 40-pound green foam rubber puppet costume. Barry Shirey sits inside the plant and operates it in a space that is barely bigger than he is.

"I was the only one that could stand to sit and sweat in foam rubber," says Shirey. "It can be too claustrophobic, that's for sure."

Shirey says Audrey II is the most unusual character he has played -- his past roles include corpses, an Irish priest and a British cabby. He recently channeled the botanical world to give voice to father and son tomatoes in an entry he and a friend created for a Heinz ketchup commercial contest.

While ketchup is a good sanguine look-alike, nothing except pure blood and human flesh will do to feed Aubrey II in "Little Shop of Horrors."

"(The plant) definitely has its own mission," Mauzy says. "It definitely knows how to work people to get what it wants, which is more food."

Additional Information:

'Little Shop of Horrors'

When: Through Aug. 12. Performances: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Aug. 12

Admission: $15; $12 for students and senior citizens

Where: The Ligonier Theater, 208 W. Main St., Ligonier

Details: 724-238-6514, ext. 2

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