Little Shop of Horrors is a musical with music by Alan Menken and book and lyrics by Howard Ashman that was based on the 1960 Roger Corman film The Little Shop of Horrors. The musical debuted Off-Broadway in 1982 (with Martin P. Robinson designing and performing Audrey II, and Anthony Asbury as his understudy). In 1986, the musical was turned into a film, directed by Frank Oz in his first non-Henson film (but still utilizing puppetry).
Little Shop of Horrors tells the story of a nerdy young florist's assistant named Seymour Krelborn, an employee of Mushnik's Skid Row Florist Shop. The incompetent Seymour is about to be fired by Mr. Mushnik when Audrey, another employee, urges him to bring out a mysterious new strain of plant that he's been tinkering with. Seymour, who has a secret crush on Audrey, names the mysterious plant after her. Mushnik gives Seymour one week to see if the "Audrey II" plant improves his lackluster business.
Unfortunately, Seymour soon learns that Audrey II can talk and has a gruesome appetite for fresh human blood. He also discovers that the plant brings him success, money and fame--as well as the romantic interest of Audrey. In order to continue his good fortune, Seymour decides to keep Audrey II alive by feeding it blood...with tragic results.
Directed by Frank Oz and shot in England, the film starred Rick Moranis as Seymour, Ellen Greene as Audrey, Vincent Gardenia as Mushnik, and Steve Martin in an acclaimed turn as sadistic dentist Dr. Orin Scrivello, D.D.S. Also in the cast were Levi Stubbs (as the voice of Audrey II), Tichina Arnold (Crystal), and John Candy (as radio host Wink Wilkinson). The original ending featured Paul Dooley as sales entrepreneur Patrick Martin, but when the scene was reshot and recut for a more upbeat ending, his footage was dropped, and Jim Belushi replaced him.
Oz's own comments on the film tended to focus less on the puppetry effects and more on the difficulties of adaptation in general:
“It's not War and Peace or even a huge, splashy musical. I adhere to the essence of the Howard Ashman book. The street is simply the background, but I'm not opening up the story, going in for dizzying overhead crane shots or shoving in irrelevant dance numbers.”
The movie utilized multiple animatronic versions of the plant Audrey II, ranging from a tiny bud to the enormous version for the climax (with multiple buds built for the end, and a huge array of rampaging plants for the discarded "Don't Feed the Plants" finale). Though not an official Creature Shop production, many of the same performers, designers, and technicians worked with Oz on the film. As Jim Henson remarked in a 1987 interview, he didn't have a hand in the puppetry for Little Shop, but "I was very close to some of the people in that production." These included offspring Heather Henson, in a bit part as a dental patient, and Brian Henson, who served as a principal puppeteer on Audrey II.
The puppeteer crew also included, amongst others, Donald Austen, David Barclay, James Barton, Joan Barton, Michael Bayliss, Marcus Clarke, Sue Dacre, Graham Fletcher, David Greenaway, Toby Philpott, Nigel Plaskitt, Mike Quinn, and Mak Wilson (the latter appearing on camera as a doo-wop singer). Lyle Conway designed Audrey II for the film (based on Marty Robinson's theatrical designs), with Sherry Amott as head of fabrication, and Neal Scanlan and Dave Elsey also contributed.
2003 Broadway Revival
The stage version was revived 2003, making its Broadway debut on October 2, and ran until August 22, 2004. Kerry Butler starred as Audrey. Once again, Martin P. Robinson supervised the puppet design, but this time, Audrey II was constructed in collaboration with the Jim Henson Company. Robinson was the primary plant puppeteer, with assistance from Anthony Asbury, Matt Vogel, and Bill Remington, all of whom doubled as singing Skid Row occupants/derelicts and dental patients. The new Audrey II was considerably different from the original off-Broadway version, while still more stylized in contrast to the film's animatronic plant. As with the other productions, however, four versions were used, from a hand-puppet Audrey to a giant version which, at its full height, rose 22 feet into the air and hovered menacingly over the fifth row. A hydraulic lift, operated by joystick, is used to help this effect.
The same puppet, weighted down further, was used in a national tour; Paul McGinnis, Marc Petrosino, Michael Latini and Anthony Asbury all performed in this version with Matt Vogel filling in for vacationing puppeteers. Robinson and the Jim Henson Company received puppet design credit in all listings and reviews.
- Although the reference is made in name only, and does not feature any elements from Little Shop of Horrors, a comic book story from Muppet Magazine issue 16 was entitled "Little Swamp of Horrors."
- The fourth season Muppet Babies episode "Adventures in Muppet-Sitting" has Baby Piggy (as Little Red Riding Hood) encountering footage of a flytrap, dubbed by Frank Welker as an imitation of Audrey II saying "Feed me!"
- In the Muppets Tonight episode that featured Rick Moranis, Dr. Phil van Neuter calls the movie a family film. When Clifford points out that it's not, Van Neuter remarks that Clifford doesn't know his family.
- In the plant episode of Bert and Ernie's Great Adventures, the plant, Tootsie, is a parody of Audrey II and grows after eating Bert's oatmeal cookies and plant food.
- The Parque Plaza Sésamo stage show Gran Musical features a medley of songs from the show, using tracks from the movie's soundtrack. Lola, Abby and Zoe lip-sync to "Prologue (Little Shop of Horrors)," The Count portrays Orin singing "Dentist," and they all sing "Don't Feed the Plants" as an Audrey II replica comes on stage. The park previously used the title song, in Spanish, in the 2010 stage show Gala Sésamo.
- During callback auditions for season 44 of Sesame Street, one of the auditioning actresses sang "Somewhere That's Green" with Elmo. A clip of this performance was included in a 2013 video.
- In the theater located at Sesame Street at SeaWorld, a poster is seen for the upcoming Sesame Street Community Theater production of "Little Shop of Hooper's," with Stinky the Stinkweed standing in for Audrey II.
- Tichina Arnold played Crystal in the 1986 film
- John Candy played Wink Wilkinson in the 1986 film
- Leslie Carrara-Rudolph played Audrey in a Concord, California production of Little Shop
- Miles Goodman scored the 1986 film
- Ellen Greene played Audrey in the original off-Broadway production and the 1986 film
- Andy Heath puppeteered Audrey II in a 2004 Jersey Opera House revival and a 2006 production which later transferred to the West End
- Danny John-Jules played a doo-wop street singer
- Miriam Margolyes played the dental nurse
- Steve Martin played Orin Scrivello, DDS in the 1986 film
- Robby Merkin played keyboards and orchestrated for the original off-Broadway run, and arranged and played keyboards and synthesizer for the 1986 film
- Rick Moranis played Seymour Krelborn in the 1986 film
- Kerry Shale played the LIFE magazine lady's assistant
- Levi Stubbs voiced Audrey II
- Billington, Michael. "New Life for Little Shop." The New York Times. December 8, 1985.
- Brennan, Patrica. "Jim Henson: From Muppets to Movies to Medieval Folk Tales." The Washington Post. October 25, 1987