Thirty years ago, (did I just say that out loud?) I watched Little Shop of Horrors, starring Rick Moranis, Steve Martin and Ellen Greene for the first time. I love musicals, and as it stands, I have quite a collection. But no musical has stuck with me like it has.
For those who may not be familiar, Little Shop of Horrors is a story about love, endurance and a foul-mouthed, man-eating plant from outer space, running amok at a Skid Row flower shop in the 1950s. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor. It gets me every time. Maybe it was the doo-wop music, the throwback to a (seemingly) simpler time, or the message that people can find their way out of miserable situations no matter how hopeless they feel. Whatever the case, Little Shop of Horrors is in my top five musicals of all-time and the songs are still stuck in my head. And that’s not hyperbole.
So what makes it so great?
While I found the bloodthirsty Audrey II (that mean, mean mother from outer space) a little crass, I found myself drawn to the story and its struggle between the haves and the have-nots, the stark contrast between uptown and downtown, and the ever-present battle that rages inside each of us to do the right thing. The combination of snark and satire in the show’s writing was also one of the things I loved most. The jokes were timeless, the songs had bite, and the dialogue was fun and agile. Something about Little Shop of Horrors is so ageless that it is enjoyed by generation after generation. And the songs? So catchy! Who hasn’t spontaneously broken into a verse of "Suddenly, Seymour?" The use of archetypes as main characters will keep it fresh for decades to come.
Rick Moranis was simply adorable in his role of Seymour Krelborn, torn between loyalty for his family business and the love of his coworker and friend, Audrey. His struggle with self-image and search for inner strength can be appreciated by most.
And let’s talk stars – with master comedy craftsmen like Steve Martin (the quasi-evil Oren Scrivello – DDS), and cameos by John Candy and Bill Murray, this movie could never have failed. Steve Martin’s character is classic and flawlessly portrayed. My favorite character, though, by far, was Audrey. She was flawed, misunderstood, and yet somehow so perfect. I appreciate that in a heroine.
When I walked out of the theater the first time, I was wishing I were part of the chorus (played by Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell and Michelle Weeks), following the characters around, singing. For years, I imagined myself in a '50s-style dress, a bouffant and white gloves, sashaying right alongside them. And in high school, that wish was granted when I became part of the chorus of our senior production of The Wiz. You could even say Little Shop of Horrors planted a seed for greater things.
And the country seems at least as besotted with it as I am, as evidenced by public sing-alongs, screenings and celebrations that have taken place recently in honor of the movie’s 30th anniversary. Despite the blood, murder and sadism, the takeaway from this film is that sometimes the nice guy does finish first, and that no matter how bad things seem, they can always get better.
If that doesn’t make you feel good, what will?
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