Book & Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Music by Alan Menken
adapted from the film of the same name by Roger Corman

INFO:

Opened at the Orpheum Theatre   July 27, 1982   2,209 performances
Original Director: Howard Ashman
Original Choreographer: Edie Cowan
Original Producer: David Geffen, Cameron Mackintosh, the Shubert Organization
Original Leads: Seymour: Lee Wilkof Audrey: Ellen Greene Audrey II: Ron Taylor
Cast Size: Male:5    Female: 4    Ensemble: 0    Total Cast Size: 9 BUT can be expanded to up to 30 or more, if needed.
Orchestra: 4, with an alternate orchestration with about 5 more musicians
Published Script: Doubleday
Production Rights: MTI (Musical Theater International)
Recordings: There are several Broadway recordings.  I actually kind of like the film.
Film: 1986, pretty good, with Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Steve Martin.
Other shows by the authors: Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty And The Beast
Awards:Won the Drama Critics Award, Drama Desk Award, and Outer Critics Award for Best Musical.

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:

This is a fantastic show for companies in need of small cast, relatively small budget shows…but who have the ability, the skill to create Audrey II,. The puppet life-sized man-eating alien plant at the center of the story. A cast of nine, no ensemble, an essentially unit set, an orchestra of maybe 9 on the outside, but can easily be done with 4. No flies or wings really required. This show is going to work very well for smaller companies with a creative and fun approach to theater. That would include High Schools, Colleges and Universities, Little Theaters, Dinner Theaters, Stock Companies, Regional Theaters, Off-Broadway, semi-pro, and of course, Broadway could beckon.

Not quite as simple or easy to do as, say, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, still, it’s high on the list of shows almost everyone can do.

Be Warned:

Um…a voracious, foul-mouthed, giant-sized, man-eating plant will occupy your stage and consider eating your audience. That can’t be good.

Actually, it’s really good, one of the funniest shows I ever saw. Unless some of Audrey II’s language will put off your audience (and they’d need to be mighty rigid for that to happen), I don’t know why anyone would be offended by this show. It’s just silly fun.

If you need a large show, a bigger cast, if you need to make use of a lot of people on stage (as is often true for schools, for instance), this may not be a very good choice. That said, the cast can be expanded by about 10, as I’ll explain before, which may well solve that problem.

THE STORY:

ACT ONE: A trio of girls singers (like any group in the 60s) warns us about a great threat about to eat up humanity, and it’s found in a “Little Shop of Horrors”.

Mushnik’s Skid Row Florist Shop. Mr. Mushnik, an angry and tired middle-aged man, rails at his inept employee, Seymour Krelbourne. His attractive and unusual female employee, Audrey, arrives late and with a black eye. Mushnik says Audrey should meet a nicer boy, and she points out there aren’t any on Skid Row. That’s when Seymour, a seemingly very nice but nebishy young man, enters with a tray of plants. Seymour is in love with Audrey, but she is unaware. Mushnik tells the trio of girls to go somewhere and better themselves, but they let him know that on “Skid Row”, that isn’t possible.

The end of the day, no sales. Mushnik tells Seymour and Audrey not to bother coming in tomorrow, his business is finished. Seymour sells Mushnik of moving toward more exotic plants, like the one’s he’s developing in the back. He brings out a particularly large, strange, sickly-looking plant, which he’s named Audrey II. Audrey is touched. Mushnik is not impressed…until a customer sticks her head in the door, fascinated by the plant and wondering where he got it. In “Da-Doo”, Seymour explains that during a recent total eclipse, it got dark, a strange humming was heard, and when the lights came up again the plant was just there. The customer is interested, and strangely decides to buy $50 worth of roses. They don’t have change for a $100 bill, so the customer decides to double the order, all very strange.

Mushnik is thrilled and offers to take his two employees to dinner, but Audrey has a date with her sadistic, motorcycle-riding dentist. She departs, and Mushnik tells Seymour to stay and take care of the Audrey II, which seems to faint a lot. Alone with the plant, Seymour tries every food, water, everything he can think of to get Audrey II to “Grow For Me”. He accidentally cuts his finger on a rose thorn, and suddenly Audrey II’s flytrap-like mouth opens wide. He feeds it blood, desperate. The plant starts to grow…and grow.

Over the radio, Seymour is being interviewed about Audrey II. Asked what he feeds the remarkable plant, he claims it’s a “special formula”. Mushnik is over the moon, and sings “Don’t It Go To Show Ya Never Know”, he’s a big success. The girls continue the song, singing about Seymour’s great success as well, his unexpected “come back.” Audrey rushes in, missing Seymour. She wasn’t tied up so much as handcuffed. The trio of girls suggest she date Seymour, but Audrey feels they’re just friends. But Audrey does dream of being with Seymour somewhere nice, “Somewhere That’s Green”, a 60′s suburban fantasy.

The store is “Closed For renovations”, because the business has grown too fast. Audrey and Seymour talk after Mushnik yells at Seymour yet again, forgetting for the moment that all his good fortune is now thanks to Seymour’s new-found celebrity. Audrey suggests Seymour up his profile, get new clothes, and offers to help him. She departs, and he watches her go with love.

A jerk in a black leather jacket, Orin, enters looking for the shop. He’s there, he lets the trio know, to pick up his date. This is the “Dentist!”, the man who abuses Audrey. He enters the shop, talks to Seymour, but Audrey steps in and tells Seymour that Orin is her boyfriend. Orin suggests Seymour take the plant out of this dump, into the world where he can profit by it. Even now, Orin insists Audrey call him “doctor,” and you know she will be beat up later. As they leave, Seymour says he’ll think about showing Audrey II off to get rid of the guy. But Mushnik hears Seymour say this, and offers to make the business “Mushnik and Son” to hold onto Seymour, even though Seymour isn’t his son.

Alone with his plant, Seymour reflects on the strange changes in his life. And that’s when the plant first talks. It opens it’s ever-growing mouth and demands that Seymour feed him. The plant claims to be starving, but Seymour’s hand is so cut up, he can’t draw anymore blood. It talks! So Seymour tries to reason with it, offers it meat. But Audrey II insists – it must be blood. The plant orders Seymour to git out and “Git It”, and now. Seymour asks what he’s supposed to do, kill people? The plant says he’ll make it worth Seymour’s while. Audrey II explains that all the sudden success is no accident. He can get Seymour anything he wants. And if Seymour won’t do it, the plant will find someone who will. Because as the plant sings, “A lotta folks deserve to die!” Seymour disagrees, no one should die…until Audrey and Orin are seen on the sidewalk outside, and Orin abuses her. The plant and Seymour suddenly see eye to eye.

A gruesome dentist office. Seymour arrives, apparently Orin’s next appointment. And Seymour points a gun at Orin. Orin can see in his sadistic way that Seymour really needs dental work, and wrestles him into the chair. He decides to operate, because pain for Orin is pleasure. He gets gas – not for Seymour, but for his own delight. As the man becomes intoxicated with gas, Seymour thinks “Now”, kill the man now. But Orin finds the mask stuck on his face, and laughs himself finally to death.

The back of the shop. Seymour lifts body parts and throws them into Audrey II’s open maw. The world has gone mad.

ACT TWO: Audrey II is ginormous. A new sign over the store reads “Mushnik & Sons.” Phones ring constantly. The trio, Audrey, Mushnik all field orders, and there’s a lot of “Call Back In The Morning”, they are overwhelmed. Audrey, exhausted, asks Seymour to lock up, but he asks her to wait, runs to the back, and re-enters the shop with a black leather jacket on – the sort Orin wore and Audrey likes. But it upsets her, since Orin has mysteriously vanished. Yet Audrey admits she’s actually relieved, she’s free of his torment. But she feels guilty., somehow. She tells Seymour that she doesn’t deserve a nice guy. But he bucks her up, and is the first person to have ever treated her kindly, and it’s “Suddenly Seymour”.

Mushnik steps in, breaks up the love scene and sends Audrey away. Mushnik lets Seymour knows he’s seen signs of his dirty work, including the dentist uniform Mushnik fished from the trash. The Plant starts singing to Seymour, warning him that Mushnik will turn him in, he has no choice! The Plant tells Seymour to consider all the fame, the fortune, the world is his. And Seymour decides. It’s “Suppertime”, as Seymour guides the unsuspecting Mushnik to the plant’s ravenous trap-like jaws. The man screams and is gone.

Seymour is famous, the world wants a piece of him. A TV producer offers him a show. Life Magazine wants to do a spread about him. A William Morris agent wants to represent him. (“The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth”) He has almost everything he ever wanted.

But Audrey II is hungry, always hungry. The plant is driving Seymour nuts, and he thinks about killing it as Audrey enters. (Because once you kill, isn’t everyone fair game – even your partner in crime?) Audrey is worried about him. Audrey tells Seymour she’d love him even if there had never been an Audrey II. And that settles it. Seymour lets her know he’s killing the plant, and there’ll be no more blood feedings. Audrey doesn’t understand. He reassures her he’s fine, she leaves, and the plant starts screaming to be fed. He offers it steak, but it’s blood or nothing, and that’s when Audrey II notices Audrey out on the street. She hears a voice in her head demanding she go to Seymour. She hears the Plant in her head, and opens the door. Audrey is alone with the plant, and it talks to her. It says it just needs a little water. And suddenly, she’s in the plant’s maw up to he waist!

Seymour charges in and pries her loose. But she’s dying, and since the plant told her Orin and Mushnik are already inside it, she wishes to join them forever, (yes) somewhere that’s green. She dies in his arms. The plant demands a feeding, opens it’s jaws which now emit an unearthly light. He lays her gently in Audrey II’s jaw, and the plant slowly eats her.

Another man enters the store, with another offer – to put an Audrey II in every house in America. And that, Seymour finally figures out, was the plant’s plan all along! Alone with Audrey II, he shoots the plant, tries to kill it, but Audrey II is too big, too strong now. He figures he’ll kill it from within, climbs in it’s maw, and that’s the end of Seymour.

The plant maven hires the trio to cut clippings of the plant, to reproduce it. They work, as Audrey II, full grown, opens new flowers to reveal the faces inside of the people it ate! They all sing “Don’t Feed The Plants”, as vines descend from above the audience to suggest that they, too, are now inside Audrey II.

THE SONGS:

“Little Shop of Horrors”, “Skid Row”, “Da-Doo”, “Grow For Me”, “Don’t It Go To Show”, “Somewhere That’s Green”, “Closed For Renovation”, “Dentist!”, “Mushnik And Son”, “Git It”, “Now”, “Call Back In The Morning”, “Suddenly Seymour”, “Suppertime”, “The Meek Shall Inherit”, “Don’t Feed The Plants”

Hits include “Little Shop Of Horrors”, “Somewhere That’s Green”, “Suddenly Seymour”

(By the way, this is the second small musical with “Suppertime” as its 11:00 number, the big number right near the end of the show that says to the audience, “wake up! We’re almost done!” The other show is You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, and instead of a man-eating plant singing about his next meal, it’s Snoopy. Kind of gives you the whole difference between these two small-budget shows.)

MY OPINIONS:

You may, as always, ignore or skip my opinions and rating.  But if you do, don’t be surprised to receive a visit from Audrey II (only he’ll have taken on the guise of your friendly, local theater critic).

I hate camp, and this show runs pretty close to camp. But it doesn’t fall into the trap of making fun of a period for the sake of making fun of the period. It uses the general hysteria and fear that permeated the 50s-60s, with the bomb and the end of the world around every corner, and makes use of that paranoia and the music of the time, to tell its tale. In other words, this show is just that smart. Too smart to be considered camp.

Ashman’s lyrics, like his script, zip along with energy and precision. They are clever, effective, pro, really good Musical Comedy work. Menken’s music warms the evening up, adds energy, and is often memorable and winning. I would have thought the source material would not have yielded such a fun and pro piece of work, but there it is.

This should be a relatively easy show to produce. The puppet, Audrey II (if it is a puppet…) is the most daunting technical problem you’ll face, and you can rent an Audrey II from numerous places, now, so the real job will be running it. That may require up to three puppeteers, trained crew people. And of course, Audrey II’s voice is big, booming, and live off-stage on mic. The sound should feel like it comes from Audrey II.

So, how to expand the show by at least ten actors? Easy. There is a single actor who plays maybe 5-6 roles in the show. Split the roles up, make each bit over for a unique actor or actress. There is a trio of girls who do a lot of singing and dancing. Make it a quintet, or sextette, or a chorus of twenty if you need to. Place “bums” on skid row and expand that number, have them sing in it. Add their voices to other choral sections. Place singers in the pit to sing, as Bacharach did in “Promises, Promises”, it’s the right period of time, the right musical sensibility. All of this can be considered if you need a larger production, and you love this show.

None of the roles are particularly hard to play. The songs are not hard to sing. The set is relatively easy to execute, the costuming very simple. This is one of a rare breed of Musical, an easy Musical to pull off! It’s fun, audiences love it. Hard to go wrong with this one.

MY RATING: * (A better-than-average and interesting show, right for many groups)

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:

It’s all a satire of sorts of 50s-60s music. The band should play with energy and precision, but this isn’t a difficult score. An easy score to teach, to play, to learn.

Seymour – Lyric baritone, nerdy, character-driven delivery. Does a lot of singing.

Audrey II – Bass Baritone, huge voice with big, edgy belt, a dangerous and full sound.

Audrey – Alto with a big belt, lush, full voice, even a sensual one. Does a lot of singing.

Mushnik – Baritone with some high notes, character driven delivery.

The Trio – Mezzos or altos, but all with a belt in mid and lower range. They do a lot of singing.

Orin – Lyric baritone, good range, good belt, character driven delivery.

The Other Guy Who Plays Everything Else – Probably need a tenor to balance things. Must sing well.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:

Almost all of the dance for the show involves the trio, so they’d better dance well. Outside of their numbers, this isn’t really a “dance show.” The numbers a Choreographer would be involved with might include “Little Shop of Horrors”, “Skid Row”, “Da-Doo”, “Don’t It Go To Show”,“Closed For Renovation”, “Call Back In The Morning”,“The Meek Shall Inherit”. Now, that is a fair number of numbers, and the trio might do back-up movement for other incidents in the show. But for most of these numbers, the movement is restricted to story-telling, and the trio, to sexy, hyper-active window-dressing.

Yes, all of this supplies the show needed energy, and it has to happen. The dance needs to be fun, but somehow, the story must be added to by it. You can employ some movement-for-movement’s sake, but not so much that it becomes exhausting to watch the trio, or worse, the audience watches them and loses the story in the process. So Choreography must generally tie to the mood and the details of the story as it plays.

You’ll want to have a hand in the casting of the trio, at the very least, as a Choreographer. You’ll be working a lot with them.

There is a danger that there are only so many moves available for this sort of music from the 60s. Your choreography could quickly become redundant. Bone up on the period, and the kind of moves that were used then. There are dumb musicals films from that time, as well as film of the Supremes and groups like them but perhaps a bit more energized. Movies like the Gidget films have some silly dance in them. And there’s always movies like “Beach Blanket Bingo.” You’re looking for pop dance crazes, and the sort of moves acts used on stage and on camera, at the time, particularly Motown acts./ But anything from the period is really fair game.

By the way, in a small theatre, like a Little Theater or Dinner Theater, you could place “Skid Row” in the audience, up the aisles.

CASTING CONCERNS:

An easy show to cast, really.

Seymour – Mid-20s, balding, insecure, put-upon, nebish. A weak man in every way. In the end, he has the morals of a flea. Mesmerized by a desire for Audrey, and to be noticed. A working stiff who has no rights and fumes quietly about it without saying anything. Cast acting and type, then voice, some movement but not much.

Audrey II – The voice of, to quote the script, Wolfman Jack. Hot, funky, hip, self-involved to the extreme, and ultimately manipulative, hypnotic, and evil.

Audrey – Bleached-blonde, Billie Dawn-like. Not terribly bright, very low self-esteem, good-hearted, though, more than anyone else if the piece. Cast for a va-voom figure, acting, a character voice (dumb blonde but not too Marilyn, because she must belt), some movement.

Mushnik – Middle-aged, ethnic, a failure. Irresponsible, unwilling to work hard, quick to provide others the blame. A very ordinary man. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement.

The Trio – Three women you might have seen together on stage ion the 60s, like the Supremes. (I’d cast inter-racial, however. And it can be more than three.) They have lots of dialogue, by the way. And they need to look good, survivors on a tough skid row. Cast for voice and dance, a look, acting.

Orin – Tall, dark, handsome, menacing, sadistic dentist. Violent, self-involved, utterly lacking a sense of decency. And sure the world wants to know what he thinks. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement. Usually doubles in small roles throughout.

The Other Guy Who Plays Everything Else – Many roles. Customers to the shop, representatives of large entertainment corporations, bums on skid row. I’d consider breaking up the role if you need to create more parts. Cast fore acting versatility, vocal versatility, voice, movement.

SETS:

There is usually only a single set, and it’s broken up into three unequal parts. The Shop, it’s public front and “hidden” back, should use most of the stage by far. The street in front of the shop gets use. The script recommends a screen painted to be Skid Row, dropped in front of the shop. This could also be played on the apron if you have a proscenium stage. A beat up streetlamp, an add with graffiti, maybe two, will do. There is also the Dentist’s Office…that could almost literally be played in the middle of skid row, and only requires a sort of demonic dentist chair with a loud, working drill and a gas mask.

So you’re looking at one set, and it should be able to be played on a stage without wings or flies, if needed. (Flies really help this show, though! If for nothing else than to drop the screen portraying Skid Row, or to drop Plant tendrils at the end.)

The world of this show is the world of Skid Row. Things are dirty, broken down, aged. Some windows are broken, walls are tagged. Doors have too many locks on them, some windows are barred. This is not a pretty world, but you do need to present a theatricalized version of it. The show needs to have a ring of some distant truth to it, but it needs to also be a lot of fun. As mentioned above, Skid Row could be up the aisle, in the audience, making them a part of the show on the “wrong side of the tracks.” Then, when they get eaten at the end, it makes more sense.

By the way, a number of prop rental and set rental houses have Audrey II puppets! You can probably just rent one. Run a search for Audrey II Puppet Image, and you’ll see dozens of ideas, some of them truly horrific and funny.

By the way, the show is actually about something. It is largely about how people will do anything for success or money or happiness, and they will refuse to look at the price to be paid until it’s often too late. In a larger sense, it’s about the American Dream, that must somehow be paid for sometime, somewhere, and perhaps in horrible ways. The fact that the piece does touch on such things, even if lightly, moves it further away from camp and closer to the kind of Musical Comedy that’s actually about something, a higher “breed” of Musical, in my opinion.

COSTUMES:

Period 1960s, but not Hippies. Each character has a personality that should be expressed through period costuming. The trio could look like various versions of The Supremes, or perhaps other groups not quite so stunningly gowned. They could change their look throughout the show, add a stole of some sort of dubious fur, add gloves, that sort of thing. And remember always, the girls will be doing a lot of dancing and singing. They must be able to breathe and move.

Audrey is an “it girl”, her body should send men in a spin, and her dress should ridiculously accentuate her assets, all in period. Between Audrey and the Trio, there is some suggested sex appeal to the show. Sex sells, unless you’re doing this in High School. Her clothes should be garish, over-the-top, in period.

Seymour is a Nebish, and Mushnik an older Nebish, both are losers. Perhaps they dress something alike. Mushnik would have a full-length overcoat when he steps out, Seymour perhaps cannot afford one. Seymour needs a baseball cap – use the local team’s in the 60s.

Orin patterns himself after Brando in The Wild Ones.

PROPS:

Lots of gardening paraphernalia. Pots, other flowers and plants. It’s a plant store, a flower store. A gun. Torture devices for Orin, such as handcuffs.

And the ultimate prop of all props, Audrey II. Share the responsibility for this with the Set Designer, since the operators will need to be concealed.

LIGHTING:

Big numbers should pop with theatricality. Love songs should swim in moonlight pouring through Mushnik’s display window. Orin’s chair should be lit demonically, with smoke rising from below.

And Audrey II, as it grows, emits an “unearthly light” from deep inside its mouth. It is, after all, from another planet, and here to destroy all mankind! And get a few snacks in.

In other words, everything over-thew-top. Have fun. Allow your imagination free play, so long as your work aligns with the Director’s vision.

MAKE-UP:

Just a touch tawdry and over the top for the trio, and Audrey.

Audrey’s black eye should really look bad. She’s a nice girl, and it should anger the audience and Seymour enough to want to kill Orin. Because the audience should be complicit, they should root for Seymour to feed Orin to Audrey II.

Seymour and Mushnik are denizens of Skid Row, as is Audrey. They don’t get much real sunlight, so they’re pale, a bit fragile.

The show is a fantasy, and that opens the door for make-up to get more interesting than the usual run of things. Have fun, coordinate with the director./

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):

Director, Musical Director, Choreographer, Lighting Director, Puppet Design and Execution, Seymour, Audrey, the voice for Audrey II

MY THOUGHTS:

What a fun show this is! A professional piece of work with just enough of a message on its mind to keep the show interesting and buoyant. A very strong show for a young and energetic cast to attack, as the demands are not too extreme, even in the lead roles. And fun for the Director and Designers, as well, thanks to the fantasy element, and that message tucked away inside the show and Audrey II’s rapidly-expanding belly.

The show is not likely to become dated. This kind of music becomes fresh and interesting again every few years, it seems, it gets recycled. And the message, that nothing comes free, you will always pay somehow, is always going to be sadly timely.