Monday, June 21, 2010

Musical Mondays: Little Shop of Horrors

Nick over at Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob shares my love for this musical, and thankfully Netflix shows it on their Watch Instantly service so I didn't have to buy the DVD yet.  When I decided to watch it this week all I really remembered was the music, not so much the dialogue or the look of the movie.  I actually saw the 2003 revival on Broadway (though it's a misnomer given that it had never appeared on Broadway before, only touring companies and regional theater) with Hunter Foster and an Audrey II that grew and reached out far into and above the audience. It was pretty amazing to see, but I like the movie better.
Quick plot summary:  Seymour is a loser who works in Mr. Mushnik's flower shop and is in love with the other employee Audrey (Ellen Greene) who is dating a sadistic dentist (Steve Martin).  The business is failing (partly because it's located on Skid Row) and to help business Seymour puts a "strange and unusual plant" in the window that he found at a market after a total eclipse of the sun.  He names the plant Audrey II.  It does improve business hugely, and Mr. Mushnik insists Seymour make the plant grow.  It turns out Audrey II drinks blood.  Once it outgrows what it can suck from Seymour's fingers, Seymour has to start killing to keep his life going.  In exchange for killing people, Audrey II promises Seymour the world, including his love, Audrey.   Most of the named cast dies, but when Audrey II goes after its namesake, Seymour stops it all and attempts to kill the plant.  The final scene leaves you unsure of whether Audrey II takes over the world or dies.

Rewatching Little Shop of Horrors today, I was reminded of why the movie version is the best.  The three main characters - Seymour, Audrey, Mr. Mushnik - matter, but it's really the supporting cast that can make or break the show.  Particularly the three girls (Crystal, Chiffon, and Ronette - named after girl groups of the '50s) who intro the show, and basically sing back up for much of the rest of the show.  However, they also have dialogue and need to be pretty good scene-stealers to make their short moments in the spotlight stand out enough that you remember them.  The women in the movie are strong enough that they stand out perfectly.  The versions I've seen on stage didn't cast those roles strongly enough and I think the whole production suffers for it.  The other thing that makes the movie work so well is the cinematography and production design.  The scenes could all have been from a 1950s comic book.  The edges of the shot are soft and slightly out of focus, even indoors.  Even scenes at the dentist are sometimes from inside a mouth (that's the girl group behind him) are perfectly crafted to invoke the fantasy/horror of those genre rather than strictly the musical genre, even though it's not particularly scary, just creepy at times.   Also, Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene are perfectly cast as a couple of losers who fall in love, make good and after escaping the plant, live happily ever after (we hope). 


Tom said...

I love this movie! Have you ever seen the alternate ending? I wish they could have left that in, perhaps in the form of Seymour's nightmare.

Rachel said...

I haven't seen this movie since I was about 10, but saw that Netflix had it for streaming and added it to my queue. We'll see how long it takes me to get around to watching it.

Nick said...

Love it! Yeah, the alternate ending is crazy. They had to cut it because test audiences disliked it. So they spent millions of dollars filming a brand new ending.

If you didn't know, essentially what happens is that Audrey II succeeds in killing Audrey. She dies in Seymour's arms singing a rendition of "Somewhere That's Green" that is incredibly creepy when you realize she's talking about being inside the plant. So Seymour feeds Audrey to the plant, and then proceeds to kill it. Audrey II brings down the building on Seymour. But instead of the electrocution, Audrey II lifts him out of the rubble and eats him, then spits out his glasses. Then, as brought up before, they create more Audrey II's from clippings and sell them around the world. And then the rest of the ending is fully grown Audrey II's breaking into houses, going down streets, climbing the Empire State Building, etc., killing, destroying, and eating everything/everyone.

Yeah. It's hardcore. I think you can find it on YouTube.