Little Shop of Horrors (partially found unused and unreleased production material of horror comedy film; 1981-2003)
Little Shop of Horrors is a horror comedy rock musical, by writer Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken, about Seymour Krelborn, a hapless florist shop worker, who raises a plant that feeds on human blood and flesh. Based on the low-budget 1960 Roger Corman film The Little Shop of Horrors, the off-Broadway musical was adapted into a 1986 film, directed by Frank Oz and starring Rick Moranis and original lead actress Ellen Greene.
Between both the original stage production and film adaptation, a plethora of material was written, conceived, and written for the musical that was later scrapped.
Original off-Broadway Production (1982)
Premiering off-Broadway on May 6th, 1982, at the Workshop of the Players' Art (WPA) Theater under the direction of Ashman, the show soon transferred off-Broadway, opening at the Orpheum Theatre in Manhattan's East Village on July 27th, 1982. Running for 5 years, Little Shop closed on November 1st, 1987, after 2,209 performances. Major productions were also mounted in Los Angeles (starring members of the original cast), Chicago, Boston, London, and Paris, in addition to a national tour.
Only two snippets of this original score have been released, a song likely is sung by Seymour as well as a song for Audrey Two, via various performances by Alan Menken. Notably, the song likely song by Seymour (informally called "When It's Time to Pick a Pet Flower") hints at closer similarities to the original film's story, as Seymour's mother was cut from the final musical.
Though some material was written for this version of the score, it was abandoned very early on. According to Sarah Gillespie, Ashman's sister, "I think [Howard and Alan] only worked on some song sketches," and no libretto for this version of this show exists.
In a 2011 interview with Theater Talk, Menken stated that once they began playing pieces of the score for people, "They looked at us like we had ten heads." This version was soon abandoned in favor of the score we know today, which Menken refers to as "the dark side of Grease."
It's not publically known quite how much of this original score was written, or if any demo recordings of it were made.
Various songs were written for Little Shop that would end up being cut, either due to the story, quality, or pacing reasons. These songs include:
- "On the Day That it Started": Likely a cut opening, later replaced by the show's title's song. The song was first publically heard during the June 27th, 2016 Little Shop of Horrors Reunion: Off-Broadway, Broadway, and Beyond! concert held at Feinstein's/54 Below during Menken's cut song medley. A copy of the full set of lyrics is likely a part of the Howard Ashman Papers at the Library of Congress.
- "The Worse He Treats Me": An early attempt at a song for Audrey, in which she tries to explain her fondness for Orin. According to Gillespie, it was "the only time I ever said [to Howard] I didn't like something" as he was working on the show. After singing it during his Little Shop of Horrors Reunion, performance, Menken joked, "I know; questionable taste. That's why we cut it."
- "I Found a Hobby": An early attempt at a song for Orin, where he explains where he got his fondness for pain. This song was later cut in favor of "Dentist!"
- "A Little Dental Music": Set between "Feed Me (Get It)" and "Now (It's Just the Gas)." Sung by the Urchins (Crystal, Ronnette, and Chiffon) as Seymour is sitting in Orin's waiting room, waiting to see the sadistic dentist.
- "Somewhere That's Green (Duet version)": Originally written as a duet between Seymour and Audrey, "Somewhere That's Green" would later be repurposed as Audrey's I-want song with a slightly different structure.
- "We'll Have Tomorrow": Set between "The Meek Shall Inherit" and "Sominex / Suppertime II." Sung by Seymour, joined later on by Audrey, he assures her that everything will turn out okay "if we just make it through tonight." Loved by both Ashman and Menken, this would be cut during rehearsals, as the show already had "Suddenly, Seymour" and Ashman believed the second act couldn't support two ballads.
- "The Meek Shall Inherit (Reprise)": Set immediately after "Somewhere That's Green (Reprise) and sung by Patrick Martin, presenting Seymour a contract to commercialize the deadly plant.
Though unused, recordings of the cut songs have been released to the public in one form or another, whether on an official release or in leaked demos. However, it is unknown if a demo was made for the original duet version of "Somewhere That's Green" or if Menken had a chance to write music for it, though a copy of the lyric sheet is a part of the Howard Ashman Papers and was released by Playbill in June 2015.
For the original off-Broadway production's first anniversary, Ashman and Menken wrote and recorded "The Audrey II Song" as a present for the cast and crew. A parody/reworking of "When It's Time to Pick a Pet Flower," according to Gillespie, "It basically lists all the cast and crew members, in clever couplets, of course." This recording has not been released publically.
Film Adaptation (1986)
With the massive success of the stage production, a film adaptation was soon in development, with David Geffen, a producer of the original production, set to produce. Geffen soon enlisted Steven Spielberg to produce the film and Martin Scorses to direct the film on a modest budget. After Scorses left the production, John Landis was attached to direct (and even began scouting locations for filming) before he too dropped out. For a time, Barbra Streisand may have also been in talks to direct and co-produce the film. Eventually, Spielberg would also end up dropping out of the production.
Released on December 19th, 1986, Little Shop of Horrors was directed by Frank Oz with a screenplay by Ashman. Ashman and Menken also contributed two new songs for the film: "Some Fun Now" (a reworking of the musical's Ya Never Know) and Mean Green Mother From Outer Space.
Screenplay (February 14th, 1985 Revision)
In a draft of the screenplay, dated February 14th, 1985, and likely before Oz signed on to direct, Ashman's initial vision for the film can be seen. A bit darker in tone, the screenplay features alternate lyrics, two deleted songs, and an ending that veers away from both the original musical and the final release of the film. Once hired, Oz revised the script, making it a bit lighter and to better align it with the musical.
Included in the screenplay are early lyrics to "Some Fun Now" (written especially for the film) and the "The Meek Shall Inherit" (rewritten for the film), as well as alternate lyrics to both "Suppertime" and "Somewhere That's Green," which would both be included in the final film with their original lyrics in place.
The script also expands on the relationship between Audrey and Orin, showing a portion of a date between the two. As Orin rides off with Audrey on his motorcycle, Seymour jumps on his bicycle and follows the two to the local drive-in. From a nearby picnic table, Seymour watches as Orin gleefully enjoys Creature from the Haunted Sea with Audrey seated behind him ("where she couldn't see the screen if she wanted to") holding the drive-in speaker. As it begins to rain, Orin snaps his fingers and, with the speaker still in one hand, Audrey produces an umbrella and opens it, "covering Orin while she herself gets soaked." Seymour, dejected and upset by what he sees, hops back on his bike and rides back to the shop.
Two unused songs are also contained within the draft, an unnamed song, sung during the filming of a TV spot for Del Monte Presents Audrey Two in a Salute to Vegetables and performed by a group of singers and dancers, and "Bad," the original eleven o'clock number for The Plant. Though the "Salute to Vegetables" number was likely dropped soon after, "Bad" would remain in the film's production far longer, likely until partway through filming. ("Bad" is listed with "Some Fun Now" and "The Meek Shall Inherit" in a soundtrack recording dated April 4th, 1985, and the demo to the song's replacement, "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space," is dated February 2nd, 1986, three months after filming started.)
This draft of the script also includes an alternate ending, reminiscent of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, that differs from both the ending that was originally filmed for the film as well as the ending that was released to theaters.
After Audrey's death, Seymour manages to survive his confrontation with the maniacal plant and, dazed, battered, and sensing the danger still at hand, manages to scramble his way out of the rubble that used to be Mushnik's Skid-Row Florists and out of reach of the demonic pod. Taking "the heroic stature of a mad prophet," Seymour shouts "I'll warn 'em! I'll warn 'em! I'll tell 'em you're comin! The human race won't take this lying down! And wherever your kind grows... whatever you try... WE'LL BE WAITING FOR YOU!" He then turns and, pushing his way through the bums that have been watching, begins to run down the street, shouting to the rooftops, "They're coming! They're coming! Don't feed them! Don't feed the plants!"
During the finale ("Don't Feed the Plants"), as The Urchins sing the tale of destruction, Audrey Two would be shown to be an instant marketing success ("like that of Cabbage Patch Dolls, Pet Rocks, and Hula Hoops all rolled into one"), with a sea of shoppers swarming over gigantic displays of the tiny plants. A dirty, unshaven Seymour with blood-shot eyes "as of he hadn't slept for weeks," would be seen pushing his way through one of the crowds before jumping up onto a countertop and screaming, kicking off every Audrey II within reach.
Audrey Twos would then be seen taking over the country, first in a news report, then in the bedroom of a middle-aged couple, then in Hollywood (by destroying the famous Hollywood sign), and finally by invading Manhattan. As one manages to overtake the Statue of Liberty, a crazed and hysterical Seymour emerges and shouts "They're here!! They're here!! Run!! THEY'RE HERE!!!!" before joining the fight against the invaders.
The film would end much like it does in the ending that was originally shot for the film, with Audrey Two overtaking the camera and seemingly swallowing the audience whole. After the final credit, "as people are leaving the theatre," a low, rumbling laugh would be heard.
Shooting for the film began on October 21st, 1985.
- Playbill article on Little Shop of Horrors production. Retrieved 07 Apr '17
- Theater Talk. episode featuring Alan Menken (part 1). Retrieved 07 Apr '17
- Site discussion about two different versions of Little Shop of Horrors. Retrieved 07 Apr '14
- Geffen, David. (UNKNOWN DATE). A Story of Little Shop of Horrors. Making-of documentary.
- Howard Ashman fan website that has a 1984 interview from an unknown Baltimore Publication about Little Shop of Horrors. Retrieved 11 Apr '17
- Website that contains info from the August 1984 edition of Madies' Home Journal which has info of the film adaption script from Little Shop of Horrors. Retrieved 11 Apr '17