Crystal, Ronnette and Chiffon (characters named after female doo-wop girl groups in the 1960s), set the scene ("Little Shop of Horrors"). These three girls comment on the action throughout the show. Seymour Krelborn is a poor young man, an orphan living in urban skid row. Audrey is a pretty blonde with a fashion sense that leans towards the tacky. They lament their station in life and seek a life away from the urban blight ("Skid Row (Downtown)"). They are co-workers at Mushnik's Skid Row Florists, a run-down flower shop owned and operated by the cranky and sly Mr. Mushnik. Seymour has recently obtained a mysterious plant that looks like a large venus fly trap. While he was browsing the wholesale flower district, a sudden eclipse of the sun occurred, and when the light returned, the weird plant had appeared ("Da-Doo"). Seymour is secretly in love with Audrey, and names the plant Audrey II in her honor.
The little plant does not thrive in its new environment and appears to be dying. Seymour questions why it should be doing poorly when he takes such good care of it. He accidentally pricks his finger on a rose's thorn, which draws blood, and Audrey II's pod opens thirstily. Seymour realizes that Audrey II requires blood to survive and allows the plant to suckle from his finger ("Grow For Me"). As Audrey II grows, the plant becomes an attraction and begins generating substantial business for Mushnik. Being the owner of the plant, Seymour has suddenly gone from loser to hero ("Ya Never Know"). Audrey reveals she is not happy in her relationship and secretly has feelings for the timid Seymour. She sings that her ultimate dream is to have the ideal suburban life with Seymour, complete with a tract home, frozen dinners and plastic on the furniture ("Somewhere That's Green").
Meanwhile, the employees at Mushnik's are sprucing up the flower shop, due to the popularity of the now large Audrey II, and the revenue it is bringing in ("Closed for Renovation"). Orin Scrivello, a sadistic dentist, is Audrey's abusive boyfriend. Modeled after the "Leader of the pack" characters of the 1950s, Orin drives a motorcycle, wears leather, and enjoys bringing other people pain ("Dentist!"). Realizing that his sudden profitability is completely dependent on the plant (and therefore Seymour), Mushnik takes advantage of Seymour's innocence by offering to adopt him and bring him on as a full partner in the business ("Mushnik & Son"). Having always wanted a family, Seymour accepts, not realizing he is being conned.
Meanwhile, Seymour is having difficulty providing enough blood to keep Audrey II healthy. When Seymour stops feeding the plant, Audrey II reveals that it can speak (in a deep, demanding voice), and says that by feeding it, Seymour will ensure that all his dreams come true ("Feed Me (Git It)"). Seymour initially refuses, but then witnesses Orin abusing Audrey. The plant presents this as a justification for killing Orin. Not realizing he is being manipulated again, Seymour gives into his baser instincts and agrees. He sets up a late-night appointment with Orin, intending to kill him. However, Seymour loses his nerve and decides not to commit the crime. Unfortunately for Orin, who has been gassing himself with nitrous oxide, the gas device gets stuck in the 'on' position, and he overdoses while asking Seymour to help save him. Seymour lets the sadistic dentist die laughing ("Now (It's Just The Gas)"). Seymour drags Orin's body away, as the now huge Audrey II calls for more blood ("Act I Finale").
The beginning of the last chorus of "Suddenly, Seymour", performed by Kerry Butler and Hunter Foster on the 2003 Broadway revival cast recording.
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The flower shop is busier than ever, and Seymour and Audrey are having trouble keeping up with the onslaught of new business ("Call Back in the Morning"). Audrey eventually approaches Seymour and confides that she is distraught by Orin's disappearance and death, even though she realizes that dating him was another mistake in a long line of bad boyfriends. The two admit their feelings for one another, and Seymour promises that he will protect and care for Audrey from now on ("Suddenly, Seymour"). The two plan to leave together and start a new life, although Seymour mistakenly attributes Audrey's feelings to his newfound fame, not realizing that she loved him even before, when he was just a shophand.
Before they can go, Mushnik confronts Seymour and accuses him of Orin's death, saying he plans to turn Seymour in to the police. Audrey II tells Seymour that he has to get rid of Mushnik or he'll lose everything including Audrey ("Suppertime"). Out of confusion and his love for Audrey, Seymour tricks Mushnik into thinking that the money he collected is inside Audrey II. As Mushnik searches for the money in the plant, he climbs inside and realizes he was tricked as he is chomped on, slurped, and swallowed. Seymour inherits the flower shop and is approached by reporters, salesman, lawyers, and agents promising fame and fortune. Although initially tempted by the trappings of his success, Seymour realizes that it is only a matter of time before Audrey II will kill again and that he is morally responsible. He considers destroying the plant but, believing that his fame is the only thing that is earning him Audrey's love, he is unable to do so ("The Meek Shall Inherit").
As Seymour works on his speech for a lecture tour, Audrey II again squalls for blood. Seymour threatens to kill it just as Audrey walks in asking when Mushnik will return from his "sick sister". Seymour learns that Audrey would still love him without the fame and decides that Audrey II must die after LIFE magazine comes to the shop. Audrey is confused and frightened by Seymour's ramblings, but she runs home by his order. That night, unable to sleep and distressed by Seymour's strange behavior, Audrey goes to the flower shop to talk with him. He is not there, and the plant locks the door and begs her to water him. Not sensing the mortal danger, she approaches to water it, and a vine wraps around her and pulls her in to the plant's gaping jaws ("Sominex/Suppertime II"). Seymour walks in, realizes what is happening, and rushes at the plant in an attempt to save Audrey. He pulls her out, but Audrey is mortally wounded and tells him to feed her to the plant after she dies so that they can always be together. She dies in his arms, and he reluctantly honors her request ("Somewhere That's Green" (reprise)). Seymour falls asleep as Audrey II grows small red flower buds.
The next day, Patrick Martin from the World Botanical Enterprises tells Seymour that his company wishes to take leaf cuttings of Audrey II and sell them across America. Seymour realizes what the plant's evil plan was all along; Audrey II caused the solar eclipse and came from an unknown planet to conquer the Earth. He then tries shooting and cutting the plant but its hide is too tough. Next he grabs a handful of rat poison and tosses it in the annoyed plant's mouth which it spits out with ease. He then runs into its open jaws with a machete planning to kill it from the inside. Seymour is quickly eaten, and only the machete (and in some versions a string of intestines or his glasses) is burped up. Patrick, Crystal, Ronnette, and Chiffon search for Seymour. Not finding him, Patrick tells the girls to take cuttings and signals the truck outside to prepare for loading.
Crystal, Ronnette and Chiffon relate that, following these events, other plants began appearing all over the world, tricking innocent people into feeding them blood in exchange for fame and fortune. They plan the consumption of the entire human population. Out of the fog, Audrey II, bigger than ever, appears with opened red and green flowers revealing the faces of Seymour, Audrey, Mushnik and Orin, who warn that no matter how persuasive the plants may be, for the sake of the whole world, one must never do what the plants ask ("Finale Ultimo (Don't Feed the Plants)"). Audrey II then crawls out using his roots towards the audience and threatens them. (In the original off-Broadway production, the plant's tendrils fell all over the audience, as if each audience member were being pulled into the plant. In the Broadway production, a monstrously huge Audrey II projected out over the fifth row and the balcony seats, as if it would eat the audience members.)
The musical had its world premiere on May 6, 1982 at the WPA Theatre. It opened off-Broadway at the Orpheum Theatre on July 27, 1982. This original production, directed by Ashman, was critically acclaimed and won several awards including the 1982-1983 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical, and the Outer Critics Circle Award. When it closed on November 1, 1987, after 2,209 performances, it was the third-longest running musical and the highest-grossing production in off-Broadway history.
Though a Broadway transfer had been proposed for the original Off-Broadway production, book writer Howard Ashman felt the show belonged where it was. After this, the production ran for 5 years. The production's lack of Broadway transfer made it ineligible for the 1982 Tony Awards.
An original cast recording, released in 1982, omits the songs "Call Back in the Morning", and "Somewhere That's Green" (reprise), and only had abridged versions of "Now (It's Just the Gas)," "Mushnik and Son," and "The Meek Shall Inherit." It also shifts the location of the song "Closed for Renovation," appearing in the show after "Somewhere That's Green" while appearing on the cast album after "Now (It's Just the Gas)" to serve as an upbeat bridge from Orin's death to the Act II love ballad, "Suddenly, Seymour". This recording features Leilani Jones, who replaced Marlene Danielle as Chiffon two weeks after the musical opened.
Original Off-Broadway cast
Seymour Krelborn — Lee Wilkof
Audrey — Ellen Greene
Mr. Mushnik — Hy Anzell
Chiffon — Marlene Danielle (later replaced by Leilani Jones)
Crystal — Jennifer Leigh Warren
Ronnette — Sheila Kay Davis
Audrey II (voice) — Ron Taylor
Audrey II (manipulation) / Wino #1 — Martin P. Robinson
Orin Scrivello, Narrator, Wino #2, Customer, Radio Announcer, Bernstein, Mrs. Luce, Skip Snip, and Patrick Martin — Franc Luz
A London West End production opened on January 1, 1983 at the Comedy Theatre, produced by Cameron Mackintosh. It ran for 813 performances, starring Barry James as Seymour and Ellen Greene (reprising her role) as Audrey. It received the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical and closed on October 5, 1985.
Prologue/Little Shop of Horrors — Chiffon, Crystal, Ronnette
Skid Row (Downtown) — Company
Da-Doo — Seymour, Chiffon, Crystal, Ronnette
Grow for Me — Seymour
Ya Never Know — Mushnik, Chiffon, Crystal, Ronnette, Seymour
Somewhere That's Green — Audrey
Closed for Renovation — Seymour, Audrey, Mushnik
Dentist! — Orin, Chiffon, Crystal, Ronnette
Mushnik & Son — Mushnik, Seymour
Sudden Changes — Seymour
Feed Me (Git It) — Audrey II, Seymour
Now (It's Just the Gas) — Orin, Seymour
Act I Finale — Chiffon, Crystal, Ronnette, Audrey II
Entre Acte (2003 Revival)- Orchestra
Call Back in the Morning — Seymour, Audrey
Suddenly, Seymour — Seymour, Audrey, Chiffon, Crystal, Ronnette
Suppertime — Audrey II
The Meek Shall Inherit — Seymour, Bernstein, Mrs. Luce, Skip Skip, Chiffon, Crystal, Ronnette
Sominex/Suppertime II — Audrey, Audrey II
Somewhere That's Green (reprise) — Audrey
Finale Ultimo (Don't Feed the Plants) — Company
Audrey II puppets
The character of Audrey II is described as being "An anthropomorphic cross between a Venus flytrap and an avocado. It has a huge, nasty-looking pod which gains a shark-like aspect when open and snapping at food. The creature is played by a series of four increasing[ly] large puppets".
The first puppet is a small potted plant "less than one foot tall" held by the actor portraying Seymour. He manipulates the plant himself with his hand and then sets it down, where it is moved by an unseen hand from beneath a shelf. The second puppet is larger than the first and is operated by Seymour during the song "You Never Know". A fake arm in a sleeve matching Seymour's jacket is attached to the plant's pot, while the actor's real arm operates the plant. The third puppet sits on the floor and is large enough to hide a person inside, who moves the plant's mouth in sync with Audrey II's voice, which is supplied by an offstage actor on a microphone. The puppeteer's legs are clad in green tights with "leaf" shoes" that serve as the plant's tendrils. In Act II, the largest puppet again hides an actor inside, who manipulates the puppet's mouth and often some of its branches. By this point, the head is at least eight feet in diameter and capable of "swallowing" the three main characters. For the finale, additions can be made to make the plant appear even bigger. Extra stage hands are often used to move larger branches and roots, which, in the original off-Broadway production, spilled off the stage and into the audience. In some productions, the effect of Audrey II menacing the audience is enhanced by dangling vines over the house.
Amateur productions of Little Shop of Horrors can obtain puppets or designs for building the puppets from MTI along with the rental scripts and scores. Some companies who have produced the show in the past and built their own puppets rent them out to other companies to recoup some of their construction costs.
Differences between the 1960 film and stage musical
The musical is based on the basic concept and dark comic tone of the 1960 film, although it changes details of the story. The setting is moved from Skid Row in Los Angeles to Skid Row in New York. Seymour's hypochondriac Jewish mother is omitted, and Seymour becomes an orphan in the care of Mushnik. Also dropped is the subplot involving the two investigating cops. The characters of Mrs. Siddie Shiva and Burson Fouch are also omitted, although Mrs. Shiva is mentioned as being the shop's biggest funeral account. The character of the gleefully masochistic dental patient (played by Jack Nicholson) was deleted from the stage musical but restored in the 1986 film version (played by Bill Murray).
In the musical, the character of the sadistic dentist, Orin Scrivello, is killed by suffocation from laughing gas instead of being stabbed with a dental instrument. His relationship with Audrey is added for the musical to give Seymour a motive to kill him; in the film his death is accidental. In addition, in the film, Seymour murders several innocent bystanders. In the musical, he is partially responsible for the deaths of Orin and Mushnik, although in both cases he does not deal the final blow in their deaths, making him a more sympathetic character. The musical introduces three new characters: a chorus of female street urchins named Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette after famous 1960s girl groups. The evil plant is named 'Audrey II', as opposed to the original 'Audrey Junior', and instead of being a crossbreed of a butterwort and a Venus Flytrap, it is now a creature from outer space intent on taking over the world.
Perhaps the biggest difference is the ending. The musical ends with Orin, Mushnik, Seymour and Audrey all eaten by the plant, and the three girls report that Audrey II’s progeny continue to consume people. In the 1960 film, Mushnik and Audrey survive, and the plant's carnivorous activities are discovered when its flowers bloom with the faces of its victims, including Seymour, imprinted on them. The musical references this ending in its finale, in which the Plant's four victims appear as part of the plant, with their faces showing through the petals of red flowers.
1986 film adaptation
Main article: Little Shop of Horrors (film)
A film version of the musical was made in 1986. Directed by Frank Oz and noted as the only film written by Howard Ashman, it starred Rick Moranis as Seymour, Ellen Greene as Audrey, Vincent Gardenia as Mr. Mushnik, Steve Martin as Orin Scrivello, DDS, Bill Murray as the masochist, Arthur Denton (renamed from the 1960 film’s Wilbur Force), and the voice of Levi Stubbs as Audrey II. The 1986 film follows the plot of the musical fairly closely but omits the songs "Ya Never Know," "Mushnik and Son", "Now (It's Just the Gas)", "Sudden Changes," "Closed for Renovation" and "Call Back in the Morning". Other changes include the removal of Mr. Mushnik's adoption proposition and a new ending, in which Seymour is able to save Audrey from Audrey II and then electrocutes the plant after it has destroyed the shop. Seymour and Audrey marry and move to the tract home of her dreams, but a small Audrey II-type bud is seen in their garden, which portends a possible spread of the alien plants. An ending more faithful to the stage version was filmed, in which the plant eats Audrey and Seymour and then, grown to massive size and having reproduced, goes on a King Kong style Rampage through New York City. It was received poorly by test audiences, and the happier alternate ending was used for the theatrical cut. A new song for the plant, "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space", was nominated for an Academy Award for Best New Song.
Poster for 2003 tryout in Florida starring Alice Ripley and Hunter Foster
In 2003, an $8 million revival of Little Shop of Horrors was planned with the goal of opening on Broadway on August 14. A $1 million pre-Broadway start-up production debuted at the Actor's Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, Florida on May 16, 2003. The revival featured several people involved in the original 1982 production. Lee Wilkoff, who created the role of Seymour in 1982, was cast as Mr. Mushnik. The production was directed by Wilkoff's wife, Connie Grappo, who was the assistant to Howard Ashman during the original production. Martin P. Robinson, who designed the original Audrey II puppets and was a muppeteer for Sesame Street, enlisted his friends at The Jim Henson Company to create new, high tech puppets especially for the show. Hunter Foster and Alice Ripley joined the cast as Seymour and Audrey, respectively, and the prologue was recited by Robert Stack.
This version of Little Shop of Horrors received mixed reviews, with some critics complaining that the intimacy of the show was lost by expanding it to fit a larger theatre. Other critics were harsher, calling the show "flat" and "uninspired" with several actors miscast, although the Miami Herald declared that "Alice Ripley's Audrey – part lisping Kewpie doll (ala Ellen Greene, who originated the role), part dental punching bag – is heartbreakingly adorable."
2003 Broadway revival
On June 2, 2003, producer Marc Routh announced that the Broadway production was being canceled because "In spite of the great number of talented people involved, the elements of this production did not come together in the way we would have liked." Nevertheless, the production was not quite dead. Producers ousted Grappo in favor of veteran Broadway director Jerry Zaks and fired everyone in the cast except Foster. New casting began on June 3, and the producers held the lease on the theatre for September previews.
The musical finally made its Broadway debut at the Virginia Theatre on October 2, 2003 with a new cast including Foster as Seymour, Kerry Butler as Audrey, Rob Bartlett as Mr. Mushnik, Douglas Sills as Orin, Michael-Leon Wooley as the voice of Audrey II and DeQuina Moore as Chiffon. Although this was the first time it had played on Broadway, the show's success in film and numerous regional productions made it fall under the "Revival" category for the 2003 Tony Awards. Foster was nominated for a 2004 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance.
The revival was fairly faithful to the original 1982 production, although there were some changes. It used the expanded version of the title song heard in the 1986 film, expanded the song "Closed for Renovation" with a "WSKID" radio introduction while also revising the Act I Finale and adding an Entr'acte before "Call Back in the Morning." The orchestrations were also beefed up for the bigger theatre to include reeds and horns, whereas the original production used a 5-piece combo. In addition, the Broadway-budget stage puppetry allowed for a more "realistic" portrayal of Audrey II, and the final, gigantic, Audrey II extended over the audience during the show's finale to snap its hungry jaws at the audience.
The cast album of the production was recorded by the original Broadway cast on September 15, 2003 and was released on October 21. Four songs were deleted during the show's early development process: "A Little Dental Music", "The Worse He Treats Me", "We'll Have Tomorrow", and "I Found A Hobby", although they were included as bonus material for the album.
The production closed on August 22, 2004 after 40 previews and 372 regular performances. The closing Broadway cast included Joey Fatone as Seymour and Jessica-Snow Wilson as Audrey.
U.S. national tour
On August 10, 2004, a US national tour of Little Shop of Horrors began just as the Broadway version was about to close in New York, with Anthony Rapp starring as Seymour. Audrey was played Tari Kelly, Lenny Wolpe filled the part of Mushnik, and James Moye played Orin. The tour closed April 16, 2006 in Columbus, Ohio.
Audrey II in the 2006–07 West End production
A production began previews on November 17, 2006 at the Menier Chocolate Factory. This revival, directed by Matthew White, featured an all-new Audrey II designed by David Farley, likely based on the pitcher plant. The production was a critical and commercial success, and transferred to the Duke of York's Theatre in London's West End in March 2007. At the end of June 2007, the show transferred to the Ambassadors Theatre in London's West End, and it ended its run on September 8, 2007. Its London cast featured Paul Keating as Seymour, Sheridan Smith as Audrey, Alistair McGowan as Orin, and Mike McShane providing the voice of Audrey II. Smith and McGowan received 2008 Laurence Olivier Award nominations for their performances, and the production was nominated for Best Musical Revival.[dead link] The production began touring the UK in 2008.
1991 Animated Cartoon Series
Main article: Little Shop
A Saturday morning animated cartoon version, entitled Little Shop, ran for one season on Fox Kids in 1991. Seymour and Audrey were depicted as teenagers, and the plant, "Audrey Junior", was not man-eating or evil, but had a huge appetite for meat and retained its catchphrase, "Feed me!" Each episode also featured two stylish music video sequences, many of which were raps by the plant. IMDB credits Frank Oz with the inspiration for turning the movie/musical into a cartoon.