I JUST realized why Seymour says "Do I know you?" to Bernstein at the beginning of The Meek Shall Inherit in Little Shop of Horrors. Because of And You Were There, Seymour HAS met him before-when he played the first customer, and the dentist. —Tropers/OOZE
It hit me in Advanced English (while reading Jane Eyre, of all things) that Little Shop has many of the elements of a Greek tragedy (albeit, a very funny one). While it is certainly modern in much of its set-up, much of it seems to root in tragedy: The Doo-wop girls are a Greek chorus. The reversal (peripiteia) comes after he kills Mushnik. Anagnorisis (moment of recognition) comes when Seymour realizes Audrey II had planned this from the start. Pathos (scene of suffering) is when Audrey is killed by Audrey II. And Seymour fits the bill for a tragic hero: "a great man who is neither a paragon of virtue and justice nor undergoes the change to misfortune through any real badness or wickedness but because of some mistake (flaw)."
I recently realized that Seymour's flaw is being utterly and completely passive. He knows Mushnik doesn't really care about him, but ends up consenting to be adopted anyway, and then the plant talks him into committing murder—twice. Seymour doesn't even have the guts to kill Orin himself, even though he walks in fully intending to do so: he sits down all ready to go through a hellish session of dental work with no gas and a rusty drill rather than complete his mission, simply because Orin said so. Then he's relieved when he has the chance to kill Orin by refusing to help him instead of actively murdering him ("I can off the guy by sitting in the chair"). It all comes to a head in "The Meek Shall Inherit", when Seymour miserably signs every contract handed to him, knowing full well he'll have to kill more people to keep the plant fed. Why is this brilliant? The chorus to "The Meek Shall Inherit" (sung by the Doo Wop Girls, who, of course, are the Greek Chorus and have inside knowledge of the plot):
They say the meek gonna get it
And you're a meek little guy
You know the meek are gonna get what's coming to 'em by and by!
They never mention what is coming to the meek (or whether it's good), and if you look at it another way, they're implying that Seymour is getting his just desserts for letting everyone walk all over him. (Additionally, the song's title is a fragment of the quote "The meek shall inherit the earth", and although Audrey II promises Seymour everything, the play ends with the plant inheriting the earth—literally.)
There's a possible running parallel between Audrey and Seymour in that they allow themselves to be abused and dominated by Orin and Audrey II, respectively. While Audrey is unhealthy because Orin beats her, Seymour is cutting himself and losing blood to keep the plant fed. In one scene ("Ya Never Know"), Seymour walks around holding the plant; the actor who plays Seymour here wears a jacket with a fake hand so that he can stick his real hand up through the pot and operate the plant's stem. This renders him unable to use one of his arms. Two seconds later, Audrey shows up, and she's late because Orin was beating up on her again. Her arm is in a cast.
Orin's an abusive sadist, Mushnik is a greedy, selfish dick, and Seymour is a passive-aggressive turd: they all end up dead by the end, but Audrey is the only one who did absolutely nothing to harm anyone, and right up until her death wanted only what was best for the one she loved. Then we have "Don't Feed The Plants", which tells us right up front that the Earth can stop the invasion... if the jerks of the world would just stop fucking it up for everyone else. And if you go by the main story? The assholes outnumber the good folks three to one. We are doomed.
Why Audrey dies even though Seymour got her out of the plant in the alternate ending. If you look closely her dress is ripped and covered in blood stains. In the theatrical ending there was no bloodstains shown. It was established in the movie earlier that it feeds on fresh blood to survive. So in the alternate ending, Audrey II sucked out all her blood until she died of blood loss.
You really can't get out of Skid Row. "Skid Row" is a song about the futility of the working poor: no matter how much you work, the cost of day to day living means you'll never have enough to actually get ahead and keeping yourself afloat is misery in and of itself because all you can do is live an endless cycle of breaking your back for a pittance while the people you work for draw on your labor to give themselves luxury. And then Seymour comes along, and shows us that even the most successful person ever to come out of that neighborhood ends up literally consumed by his work.
Why is Audrey's death the final stroke for Seymour? It's not just because she's dead and thus can't bring himself to continue living out of grief: it's because when all is said and done, he willingly gives her to the plant. He saved her from it, just to feed her to it anyway. Even when he finally puts his foot down and tells Audrey II it must be stopped, he still refers to Audrey as "the only thing" he ever loved. When it comes right down to it, Seymour is just as selfish a monster as everyone else, he's just too meek to act on it until he has a way to skirt all the consequences; right up until he watches Audrey disappear into the plant and finally realizes what a monster he is, all he's doing is disposing of another body, and making another Lovecraftian sacrifice to Audrey II.
Seymour is the only person Audrey II is able to eat by itself. Why? Because it ate Audrey, and we've seen from the very beginning that it grows instantly after consuming enough blood. Seymour sealed his fate (and the world's) as soon as he fed her to it; Mushnik was gone and he had plenty of money to get out of town with. If he hadn't given her to the plant, locked up the flower shop, and quietly left without telling anyone, he might have saved the world... but she told him that's what she wanted, and like always, Seymour obeyed without question and paid the price.
At the end of the film adaptation, a new Audrey II plant is growing and smiling in Seymour and Audrey's yard. In addition to the obvious that Seymour and Audrey's life together will be threatened once more, what if more of them appeared?
Audrey took a Sominex before going back to the shop and being eaten by the plant. After Seymour rescues her, she asks to be fed to the plant and dies in his arms. What if that was just the sleeping pill taking effect? She wasn't really dead until Audrey II ate her!
Not to mention, that seems like the intent! Suppertime (Reprise) is alternatively called Sominex, but it only gets a passing mention in the song itself. What if that's why?
There is nothing left of Audrey when Seymour gets swallowed, even though she'd only been devoured a few minutes before, and it swallowed her in one gulp (or just let whatever digestive system it has dissolve her all at once). But with Seymour? Audrey II takes lingering pleasure in cramming Seymour into its gullet, and chews. Because Seymour is the first meal Audrey II is able to eat fully under its own power.
I never really appreciated the themes of Little Shop until after watching it a few times. The entire story is basically a cautionary tale about the cyclic nature of corruption, abuse, and bullying: the truly powerful gain power by exploiting the needs of the weak and maintain that power by depriving others of gaining power of their own: The wealthy employ the poor, but won't pay them a living wage that would allow them to move up economically. Orrin gives dental care to his patients, but only for the sake of hurting them (and since he's a medical professional and a bully, no one argues with him; he has plenty of clients); he fills Audrey's need for a relationship, but he abuses her and forces her to live in fear of his wrath. Audrey II plies Seymour with a future he could never have on his own, but only to get him to bring it blood. It's interesting in that Audrey is the only character who, when it first appears, has absolutely no direct power of its own. Once it gains power over Seymour, it uses him to make itself strong enough to eat right through him and move on to bigger game. Even Mushnik, a poor Skid Row resident himself, adopts Seymour and gives him the family he always wanted, but only in order to tie himself to Seymour's success. The powerful supply the weak with what they need, but force those same people to bear the costs while the powerful grow more powerful by keeping the fruits of that labor for themselves. It's a cute, funny, fun movie, but it's also very apt.
In the end, we see the plants taking over the world, and the chorus warns us "don't feed the plants," saying that people all over the country were taken in by their plants' promises. Except- what could the new plants promise their owners? Audrey II was able to promise Seymour fame and fortune because he had a one-of-a-kind plant that people all over would pay to see. However, the new plants can't make that promise if everyone in the country had one. So why would all these other people be willing to kill other humans just to have yet another giant plant?
Because the point isn't in the fact that it's giant plant. Audrey II is a type of flytrap, and somehow has a way of rendering itself extremely attractive to humans, appropriate in that it's a metaphor for temptation. Consider that thousands of people are buying these things, but in the climax, there's really only a handful of them destroying New York (not that there needs to be very many). Each of the Audrey II's needs to find someone who not only will figure out that they need blood to grow before it dies of starvation as a sapling, but be willing to kill to feed it once it becomes able to talk and make Faustian promises. What that means is you have a fad plant that only very particular sorts of jerks are going to be able to grow to the amazing heights, and so anyone who's able to do it, is probably going to at least have something of an increased social status among other Audrey II growers.
They don't even have to be jerks. Picture an extremely lonely person buying a fancy new plant to brighten their apartment. To this person's delight, the plant is visibly responsive to their voice! They start talking to it, really bonding with the plant. Then it starts wilting, and the lonely person will go the extra mile to save their precious plant. Once the plant gains the ability to speak and to reach out and touch them, they feel even closer to it. It tells them it loves them. Before long the human is willing to do anything in order to help their friend.