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Theatre / Little Shop of Horrors

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"Feed me! Feed me!...Feed me, Seymour!"

On the twenty-first day of the month of September, in an early year of a decade not too long before our own, the human race suddenly encountered a deadly threat to its very existence. And this terrifying enemy surfaced – as such enemies often do – in the seemingly most innocent and unlikely of places...

A musical reimagining of the 1960 Roger Corman film The Little Shop of Horrors, made by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, which debuted in 1982, loosely adapted from Corman's film. The musical was subsequently turned into a 1986 film directed by Frank Oz.

The story revolves around Mushnik's Skid Row Florists and the three people who work there: Mr. Mushnik, the proprietor, and his two assistants, Seymour and Audrey. Seymour loves Audrey, but hasn't told her because he's a poor orphan with no future to offer her. Audrey dreams of meeting a nice man who'll love her for herself, but believes it will never happen. Due to her lack of self esteem, she's willing to date a rich but thoroughly unpleasant guy, Orin Scrivello, a motorcycle-riding dentist who calls himself "the leader of the plaque."

The shop is on its last legs: there's nothing in the till but cobwebs and dust. And then Seymour finds a strange and interesting plant, which he dubs the Audrey II, and persuades Mr. Mushnik to display it in the shop window. Audrey II proves to be a customer magnet: people come to look at it, and always buy something before they leave. As its fame spreads, the shop receives larger and larger commissions, and Seymour starts receiving offers for national magazine interviews, lecture tours, even his own TV show.

But there's a catch: The plant thrives on human blood, and will die without it. At first, Seymour can keep it satisfied with his own blood, but as it grows larger it demands more than a person can give and live. But, you know, there's that repulsive boyfriend of Audrey's — surely nobody would miss him if he were to... disappear...

The original musical was famous for its "Everybody Dies" Ending, with the moral of "Don't feed the plants" serving as a fitting metaphor for avoiding temptation, and deals that sound too good to be true. The film version follows the stage version fairly closely except for a Focus Group Ending in which the Audrey II is defeated and Seymour and Audrey survive to live happily ever after, though the originally shot and Truer to the Text ending was restored for the later Director’s Cut. It was also one of the first mainstream musicals with a rock n roll-style score that wasn't specifically composed to fit its story.note 

The film version subsequently resulted in an animated series called Little Shop, created by Frank Oz, which aired in 1991. It was set in a High School, with school-aged Seymour (who's no longer an orphan and has a hypochondriac mother, much like the original 1960 film) and Audrey (who was rewritten to be Mr. Mushnik's daughter who's obsessed with becoming a firefighter) dealing with the usual sort of high school comedy plots, with the dubious assistance of a toned-down plant which was merely carnivorous rather than a "humanitarian."

The musical provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The musical jettisons several incidental characters, tightens the plot and gives Seymour's struggle with the carnivorous Audrey II a proper narrative arc.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Audrey is traditionally platinum blonde (the acting script refers to her as such). In the original film, she was brunette.
  • An Aesop: The message of the story is to not be tempted by deals that seem too good to be true, which is conveyed by the increasingly vicious demands Audrey II makes as it helps Seymour's shop get more and more successful.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Audrey II—a plant who acts and sounds male (although casting has often gone both ways in numerous productions). (Admittedly, when Seymour states that "the Audrey II is not a healthy girl", the Audrey II hasn't revealed itself as sentient yet, so he's speaking pretty loosely.)
  • And I Must Scream: This is ostensibly the ultimate fate of Audrey II's victims — their faces become embedded in the centers of the plant's flowers. It's shown in the finale that the faces can only move and sing (or not, if you take their lines in "Don't Feed The Plants" to be an inner monologue), but appear to be alive and conscious as part of the plant. Since Audrey II and its descendants are nigh-indestructible by the end of the show, their chances of dying a true, merciful death at that point are next to nil.
  • And You Were There: After Audrey II starts growing, Seymour is approached by a series of people offering him fame and fortune (three in the musical number "The Meek Shall Inherit", and one more in the final scene); all four are played by a single actor. The same actor also plays the plant's first victim. (As well as various one-off characters with less metaphorical resonance.)
  • Apocalypse How: By the end, it's heading toward Class 3a: Planetary-scale extinction of the dominant species on the planet, assuming Audrey II and its offspring are never defeated. At minimum, it's a Class 0, with man-eating plant monsters rampaging across all of America.
  • As the Good Book Says...: In the song "The Meek Shall Inherit".
    They say the meek shall inherit.
    You know the Book doesn't lie.
  • Audience Participation Song: "Dentist!" ends by becoming this. "Say ahhhhh!" "Ahhhhh!"
  • Badass Biker: Orin Scrivello rides a motorcycle and wears a black leather jacket with a dental-themed biker logo on it.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The plant's growing fame results in a distribution deal that will put cuttings of Audrey II in homes all over the country. Seymour belatedly realizes that this is what Audrey II was after all along, and attempts to kill the plant before the distributor arrives to take the cuttings. He fails utterly, dying in the attempt, and the distribution goes ahead.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: When Audrey talks about her past with Orin:
    Audrey: You know where I met him? In the gutter.
    Seymour: the gutter?
    Audrey: The Gutter, it's a nightspot.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: All over the place, but moreso in the ending; The play ends with the victims of Audrey II (in the form of the flowers with their faces on them) begging the audience to 'not feed the plants' and give into the promises of fame and fortune in exchange for blood of those around them, like Seymour did when he fed people to Audrey II for his own chance at fame and, in his case, love for the original Audrey.
  • The Berserker: Seymour in the final scene. Once Twoey's true intentions are revealed, Seymour goes wild and tries killing it in a furious rage. He fails.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Seymour (he fails in trying to kill the plant, though).
  • Beyond Redemption: Seymour doesn't necessarily have any ill will towards Orin Scrivello until he watches Orin slap Audrey in the face. Cue to Seymour selecting Orin as his first victim.
  • Big Bad: Audrey II, the manipulative Man-Eating Plant who sweet-talks Seymour into feeding it people.
  • Blood Lust: "Don't need no twist of lime..."
  • B-Movie: A parody thereof.
  • Break the Cutie: Seymour. Audrey was broken long before the musical started.
  • Breath-Holding Brat: Mr. Mushnik pulls this in the song "Mushnik and Son"; it's what finally gets Seymour to agree to his proposal of adoption.
  • Burp of Finality: After Seymour climbs into Audrey II's mouth to kill it from the inside, his attempt failing is telegraphed when Audrey II burps after eating him. Most versions even have Audrey II spit out the machete for good measure.
  • Canon Foreigner: Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon have no counterparts in the original movie.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: Word of God [1] states that this was their intention writing the show.
  • Cephalothorax: Audrey II is just a big head on a stalk.
  • Character Catchphrase:
    • "Feed me!" and variants thereof.
    • A more subtle one is Audrey's "Sure!", which even gets referenced in "Suddenly Seymour" ("I'd meet a man and I'd follow him blindly/He'd snap his fingers/Me, I'd say 'sure'!")
    • "Say ahhhh! Say ahhhh!"
  • The Chessmaster: Audrey II. After noticing Audrey I outside the shop, he feigns interest in a pound of rare roast beef so he can lure her inside.
  • Classical Anti-Hero: Seymour, who kills his foe, kills his father figure, kills his lover, then kills himself - all unnecessarily because Poor Communication Kills - all keeping in line with classic Greek tragedy!
  • Crapsack World: Skid Row. More like a beer-bottle in a paper bag world.
  • Crosscast Role: Mrs. Luce, usually, since the tradition is for all the characters who offer Seymour fame and fortune to be played by a single (male) actor.
  • Crowd Song: "Skid Row", "Don't Feed The Plants".
  • Cut-and-Paste Suburb: Audrey reveals her greatest dream is a simple life in a tract house in "Somewhere That's Green".
    Audrey: I'll cook like / Betty Crocker... and I'll look like / Donna Reed!
  • Darker and Edgier: Than the original film, to a degree. While the original was loaded with Black Comedy, the musical manages to throw in plenty of extra angst:
    • In the film, Seymour is a bumbling innocent who's so clumsy that he kills his victims by mistake, while in the musical he's seduced into deliberate murder by being promised fame, fortune and the girl he loves, Audrey. Additionally, while the film Seymour lived with his mother, the musical Seymour was abandoned at the Skid Row Home For Boys and taken in by Mushnik, who never liked him and treated him horribly.
    • Skid Row is now a terrible place that everyone desperately wishes they could leave.
    • Audrey, a happy-go-lucky ditz in the film, becomes the product of a broken home who's been in one bad relationship after another, suffers from low self-esteem, and is regularly abused by her sadistic boyfriend. She also dies in the end.
    • The plant goes from being a somewhat sarcastic, ever-hungry presence to a Magnificent Bastard plotting world domination.
    • Unlike the film, it's heavily implied that Audrey II will just keep getting more powerful and take over the country/world instead of being content to merely sit and munch every now and then.
    • The dentist goes from merely being crazy to being a sadistic monster who proudly boasts about the childhood he spent murdering animals in horrific ways.
  • Dark Reprise:
    • "Somewhere That's Green". A song with some of the same lyrics is first about dreaming of a bright future with Seymour, and then about begging Seymour to feed her to a man-eating plant.
    • As she is fed to the plant, the orchestra does a reprise of "Skid Row".
    • "Act 1 Finale" contains some lyrics and melody from "Prologue/Little Shop of Horrors", but in a more sinister tone and playing behind the maniacal laughter of a man-eating plant.
    • Averted with "Suppertime II". Sure, it's dark, but it's debatable whether it's actually any darker than the first "Suppertime".
    • "Sudden Changes", a brief solo Seymour has just before "Feed Me", is the same as the opening to "Somewhere That's Green". It's lighter than "Somewhere That's Green"'s reprise, but is darker than the initial "Somewhere That's Green". This makes it appropriate that it comes between the two.
    • "Bigger Than Hula Hoops" uses the same underscore as "Da Doo". "Da Doo" is a cheerful song about how Seymour found Audrey II, "Bigger Than Hula Hoops" is a violent fight between Seymour and Audrey II.
  • Deal with the Devil: Even referred to as such in the acting script — the precise wording is "pact with the devil." The introduction references the Faust legend as well.
  • Death by Adaptation: Mushnik and Audrey don't die in the original movie.
  • Death Song: "Now (It's Just The Gas)" for Orin and "Somewhere That's Green Reprise" for Audrey.
  • Depraved Bisexual: No matter what its gender, Audrey II acts rather seductively toward both Seymour and Audrey. Orin also gets off on tormenting others, be they man or woman.
  • Depraved Dentist: Orin Scrivello, D.D.S., a shameless sadist who gets off on bringing others pain as a dentist.
  • Description Cut: "What kind of 'professional' rides a motorcycle and wears a black leather jacket?" Enter Orin Scrivello, D.D.S.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Audrey's death is this for Seymour.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life:
    I keep asking God what I'm for,
    And he tells me, "Gee, I'm not sure,
    Sweep that floor, kid!"
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Seymour's relationship with the plant, especially in "Feed Me (Git It)".
  • Did You Get a New Haircut?: "Is that new eye makeup?"
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Audrey, in Seymour's arms.
  • Die Laughing: "Now (It's Just The Gas)".
    Orin: Are you satisfied? I—laughed—my—self—to... [dies]
    Seymour: ...death?
  • Domestic Abuse: Audrey's boyfriend Orin Scrivello is a "semi-" sadist.
  • Doo-Wop Progression: The chorus of "Dentist". Appropriate, given the time era.
  • Downer Ending: Audrey, Seymour, Mr. Musnik, and Orin all get eaten. (Okay, so Orin wasn't that big of a loss, but still.) Oh, and Audrey II succeeds in its plans for world conquest, and the distribution plan results in thousands of people getting sweet-talked by tiny Audrey II plants into feeding them blood. The show ends with a now monstrously huge Audrey II leaping towards the audience. There's exactly one ray of hope in the ending; the line, "If we fight it, we've still got a chance."
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Seymour complains about how he has to keep feeding Audrey II, and Audrey (number I) wonders why he's so upset about the cost of plant food.
    • More tragically, Audrey II persuades Seymour to commit murder by promising him Audrey's heart, and Seymour continues with the killings even after the cost has become obvious because he believes Audrey, along with the fame and the fortune, are Audrey II's gifts to him, and she would leave him if the fame and fortune did. "Somewhere That's Green" makes it clear to the audience that Audrey loved the poor sap long before he ever found the plant.
  • Dumb Blonde: Audrey.
  • Eaten Alive: Musnik and Seymour.
  • Economy Cast: If the roles are divided as they were in the original run, only eight cast members are required—four guys and four girls, with Orin's actor playing several minor roles.
  • Empathic Environment: "Shang-a-lang, feel the sturm und drang in the air..." Besides that, the script calls for a "Wagnerian" sunset to heighten the over-the-top drama when Seymour feeds Audrey to the plant.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Orin.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Mushnik is a very Bad Boss, but he's appalled by Dr. Schrivello's abuse of Audrey.
  • Evil Laugh: Audrey II. Orin on Nitrous oxide.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Audrey II is typically voiced this way.
  • Exact Words: The refrain of "The Meek Shall Inherit" promises that "the meek are gonna get what's coming to them, by and by". Seymour gets what's coming to him, all right- in the karmic sense of the term.
  • Extreme Doormat: Seymour, and to a lesser extent Audrey put up with Mushnik's abuse and insults.
  • Fantastic Aesop: "Don't Feed the Plants"- it could lead to the destruction of humanity.
  • Faux Affably Evil:
    • Audrey II sweet talks Seymour into getting what they want even though it is blood.
    • Orin doesn't even pretend to be nice to Audrey, but he acts friendly toward Seymour.
  • Fed to the Beast: The fate of Audrey II's victims.
  • Final Love Duet: "Suddenly, Seymour".
  • Fluffy the Terrible: The name of the evil plant whose main goal is to devour all of mankind and conquer Earth? Audrey II.
  • Foreshadowing: Orin tells Seymour "somebody'd make you a goddam[sic] partner to get their hands on this," referring to Audrey II. The song after this scene, Mushnik and Son, has Mushnik convince Seymour to be his son so he can keep Seymour and the profits from the plant in the shop. Mushnik offers to make Seymour a partner: "Mushnik and son/sounds great/three words with the ring of fate/so say you'll incorporate with me." We find out Mushnik's shop was renamed to Mushnik and Son when Audrey and Seymour field calls in Call Back in the Morning - "Mushnik and Son, Skid Row's Favorite Florists, can you hold?"
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: In the final song, 'Don't Feed the Plants', the song has two different lines:
    • "And this theater!"
    • "And where you live!"
      • At that point in the Orpheum Theater, tentacles dropped from the ceiling to threaten the audience.
      • Occasionally, the line may reference the location of the theater (I.e, "And Atlanta!" if it’s taking place there).
    • During Orin's Villain Song, he sings "Say 'Ah'!"... to the audience.
  • Friendship Moment: Chiffon, Ronette, and Crystal get two with Audrey. In the first, they encourage her to dump Orin and find a man that's worth her time — namely, Seymour. In the second, Audrey isn't present, but when the girls meet Orin for the first time and realize he's the scumbag that's been abusing Audrey, they tell him to get lost and leave Audrey alone. ...And try to beat the crap out of him while they're at it! (It doesn't work, but it's the thought that counts.)
  • Fur and Loathing: Stage directions indicate that the rather creepy Mrs. Luce wears a fox fur coat.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Audrey II has a feminine name but is traditionally played by a male actor (traditionally a baritone or bass) and has a masculine personality. Being a plant, and probably an alien, it's anybody's guess what gender Audrey II really is - if any.
  • Genre-Busting: It is a musical that serves as a social satire of corruption, greed, and consumerism by combining campy horror, comedy, and sci-fi together.
  • G-Rated Drug: PG-Rated, not very.
    Ronette: Here he is folks, the leader of the plaque!
    Chiffon: Watch him suck up that gas, Oh- my- God...!
  • Greedy Jew: Mushnik—though, to be fair, a lot of characters want to make money off that plant.
  • Greek Chorus: The three urchins Crystal, Ronnette, and Chiffon.
  • Heel Realization: Seymour with the following line:
  • He Knows Too Much: Seymour's reason for killing Mushnik, with prodding from Audrey II ("Suppertime"), who himself, still needed Seymour.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Orin wears a black leather jacket. The acting script calls for an insignia of a bleeding tooth across the back.
  • Heroic BSoD: Seymour goes into one after Audrey's death. After he feeds her body to Audrey II, he sits in a shattered daze while the clock and lighting reveal that a whole night and morning pass. But he finally snaps out of it when Patrick Martin makes his offer to sell cuttings of Audrey II, which reveals the plant's plan for world domination.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Seymour was an orphan and was taken advantage of for a roof over his head.
    Seymour: He took me out of the Skid Row Home for Boys when I was just a little tyke. Gave me a warm place to sleep, under the counter. Nice things to eat like meatloaf and water. Floors to sweep and toilets to clean and every other Sunday off!
  • Historical Domain Character: Mrs. Luce (in real life, Clare Booth Luce) really was the wife of the editor of Life Magazine. She was also a playwright, journalist, socialite, ambassador and congresswoman.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Seymour, eaten by his own giant plant, and Orin, who asphyxiates when the laughing gas mask gets stuck. In the stage show, Mushnik plays with this- he worries about money to the point of adopting Seymour just to keep the plant, and Seymour tells him he put the day's earnings in the plant during Suppertime, but considering A) how the shop had been doing before Audrey II, and B) the fact that it's apparently over a thousand dollars, his concern is more or less justified. Audrey is the only victim who doesn't really have a Karmic Death.
    • Audrey's death was karmic - for Seymour instead of for her.
    • Mushnik has an oddly meta example of this. In the original b-movie, he tricked a would-be robber into getting eaten by the plant by telling him the shop's money was inside it. The musical lifted the situation with practically the same dialogue, but used it to kill off Mushnik.
  • Hope Spot: There are quite a few moments when it looks as if Seymour's going to kill the plant, but he never does.
  • Horror Hunger: Audrey II has a strong craving for human blood, accept no alternatives.
  • Humans Are Bastards: After we're treated to a seemingly nice and lovable guy getting seduced into repeat murder, the ending song tells us that the plants are doing the same thing all across America, offering "unsuspecting jerks" their wildest dreams in exchange for blood. The message of "Don't Feed The Plants" is obvious—with the right motivation, anyone could kill people to feed a plant. Including you.
  • "I Am" Song: "I am your dentist, and I enjoy the career that I picked!"
  • Idiot Ball: After killing Orin, Seymour indulges in what has to rank among the worst murder coverups in the history of fiction. He leaves his baseball cap and his bag at the scene of the crime (the bag, by the way, has the name of the shop on it), stuffs Orin's uniform in the trash can outside the shop, and doesn't even bother to clean up the blood he spilled on the shop floor. When questioned about it, he says, "I spilled some Hawaiian Punch and it stained."
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Audrey II's behavior toward Audrey in "Suppertime II".
  • I Lied: No shit, Sherlock!
  • The Ingenue: Audrey (the human)
  • Insecure Love Interest:
    • This is why Audrey doesn't consider leaving the abusive "semi-sadist" Orin for her Nice Guy coworker Seymour; she likes Seymour, but she considers herself too dirty and worthless to be with him.
    • For his part, Seymour is convinced that he's not good enough for Audrey. When he finally realizes that she loves him back, he assumes that it's because he now has money and believes that he'll lose her if he loses his income from the plant. Tragedy ensues.
  • Insecure Protagonist, Arrogant Antagonist: Seymour is a shy self-proclaimed slob whose lack of low self-esteem gets lampshaded by Audrey (who is also deeply insecure, believing she doesn't deserve goodness in life). The main antagonist, Audrey Two, is a smooth-talking, self-assured mutant plant who manipulates Seymour's insecurity so it can feed on blood, and in the movie gets a Villain Song boasting about how powerful it is. Audrey's abusive boyfriend Orin is a lesser antagonist, but is even more blatantly arrogant, frequently bragging about his wealth and success and always putting down Audrey for not meeting his standards.
  • In the Style of: Fitting the age of its source material, the musical's soundtrack is written to resemble 1960s pop music, most prominently illustrated by the Doo-wop approach of the title theme and "Dentist!"
  • Ironic Echo:
    Seymour: You're a monster, and so am I!
    Audrey II: Feed me!
  • "I Want" Song:
    • "Somewhere That's Green", where Audrey speaks of her desire to settle down with Seymour and have a family.
    • As well as its Dark Reprise and the villainous version in "Feed Me" (where Audrey II persuades Seymour to kill people to keep it fed).
    • "Skid Row" (where Seymour expresses a desire to get out of Skid Row), "Grow For Me" (where Seymour begs Audrey II to start growing), and "Mushnik and Son" (where Mushnik wants to adopt Seymour as his son to have a piece of the pie upon learning of his success with Audrey II) also qualify—and, to a lesser degree, "Now (It's Just The Gas)" (where Orin pleads for his life while suffocating on nitrous oxide) and "The Meek Shall Inherit" (where Seymour is torn between destroying Audrey II or continuing to feed the carnivorous plant for his own ends).
  • I Wished You Were Dead: Audrey secretly wished Orin would disappear, and when he actually does, she blames herself, worrying that it's her fault if he "met with foul play". (Although she doesn't know it, she is the reason Seymour killed him.)
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mr. Mushinik, who cares somewhat for Seymour (though more for money) and for Audrey, who he constantly advises to drop her abusive boyfriend.
  • Job Song: "Dentist" is a song about Orin's job as a psychopathic dentist.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Orin.
  • The Klutz: Seymour's signature trait before the Audrey II plot takes off, at which point it disappears. (Unlike his counterpart in the original film, he's not a Lethal Klutz.)
  • Lacerating Love Language: A cut song, "The Worse He Treats Me", would have discussed and parodied this trope, as Audrey discusses her relationship with her abusive boyfriend Orin, taking his beatings as a sign of love. The song was meant to show more of Audrey's self-loathing mindset than Orin's actual affection, but the writers realized the song was in poor taste regardless and cut it.
  • Laughably Evil: Orin, Audrey II, and (depending on how he's played) Mushnik.
  • Laughing Gas: Has the song "Now (It's Just The Gas)", in which a dentist goes Laughing Mad due to an overdose on laughing gas, before he eventually suffocates on it.
  • Laughing Mad: Dr. Orin Scrivello during Seymour's dental exam. Admittedly, it was due to a fatal overdose of laughing gas.
  • Leit Motif: Quite a few. Just to name one example, the tune to Mushnik And Son appears three times, not counting in the song itself.
  • Love Makes You Evil: All of Seymour's evil deeds are done for Audrey's sake.
  • Love Redeems: "Suddenly Seymour" is about Audrey being redeemed by Seymour, which is ironic when you consider that she's The Ingenue and he's a murderer.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Quite a lot: cheerful, rousing rock/Motown numbers spliced with references to horror and bloodshed are the order of the day here.
  • Man-Eating Plant: Features perhaps the most famous of these as its main antagonist.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Audrey II.
  • Meaningful Name: The dentist: Orin ("oral") Scrivello (a type of elephant tusk).
  • Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: Audrey. Her dying words make humanity's salvation impossible.
  • Miracle-Gro Monster: Audrey II gradually gets bigger as it gets more blood.
  • Money Song: Since money is a huge part of the plot, it's inevitable that some songs would revolve, at least partially, around it. Probably the best example is Mushnik's intro to "Ya Never Know".
  • Mood Whiplash: Aplenty. The show blurs the line between comedy and horror to a remarkable degree.
    • Seymour agonizing after killing Mushnik is interrupted almost immediately by the arrival of Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon, who are ecstatic after seeing Seymour on the news.
  • Mundane Luxury: Audrey's greatest dream is to live in a small house in the suburbs, with some "fancy" appliances like a toaster, and a twelve-inch screen TV, and a garden, with a man who genuinely loves her. It's funny in a sad sort of way the first time you watch it, but after getting a look at Audrey's relationship with Orin, and further insight into her background in Act Two... Suddenly, it's not even slightly funny anymore.
  • Murder by Inaction: Seymour tries to shoot Orin the Depraved Dentist, but can't bring himself to. Moments later, Orin gets himself high inside a mask full of gas, but finds he can't get it off and begs Seymour to help him get it off (while he laughs maniacally.) Seymour just stands by and watches Orin suffocate.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: While Seymour is compelled to do away with Orin because of how terribly he treats Audrey, reasoning that she'd be better off without him and his abuse, Mushnik jumps to the conclusion that Seymour killed Orin so he could move in on Audrey.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Seymour has at least two of these moments during the plot:
    • Following Mushnik's death (complete with a Dark Reprise of "Mushnik and Son" to hammer the mood home).
    • And again after he discovers the true extent of Audrey II's plan's - world domination.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: "Sominex/Suppertime II"
    Audrey: I couldn't sleep. I took a Sominex, but voices in my head kept saying "Go to Seymour, talk to Seymour." I drank some tea, but gee, the feeling wasn't gone. Seymour, sweetheart. Tell me, darling. What's been going on?
  • Mythology Gag:
    • During "Don't Feed the Plants", the victims appear as buds to sing the song, as the ending of the 1960 film.
    • Mrs. Shiva is referenced, but not seen. She still needs plenty of funeral lilies.
    • In the 1960 film, Mushnik disposes of a robber by telling him that the shop's takings are kept inside the Audrey plant and letting him get eaten when he climbs in to retrieve them. In the musical, this is the method Seymour uses to dispose of Mushnik.
    • Audrey mentions a big order for the Rose Bowl during "Call Back In The Morning". In the 1960 film, a large order for the Rose Bowl after Audrey Jr.’s unveiling is what convinces Mushnik to keep Seymour employed.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: Manhattan in the 60s Downtown south of 14th Skid Row.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: Lampshaded in the opening monologue. The narrator talks about how threats to Earth often happen in the most ordinary and unlikely of places.
  • Oblivious to Love: For a good part of the show, Seymour and Audrey are oblivious to each other's love. Each admires the other excessively and has about zero self-esteem.
    • Deconstructed, as Seymour refuses to stop feeding the plant because he fears Audrey would stop caring about him if he was broke again which leads to their deaths.
  • Our Founder: A picture of Mr. Mushnik with the caption "Our Founder" appears in the shop in the scene following "The Meek Shall Inherit."
  • Paparazzi: Mrs. Luce wants a photo of Seymour with the plant for the cover of Life Magazine.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Mushnik would come off as a complete Jerkass if he didn't show concern for Audrey and urge her to break up with Orin. This is probably why he tells Seymour he didn't notify the police about the evidence he found that his flower shop boy has something to do with the dentist's disappearance. In fact, Mushnik gives a reasonable response: they should go to the police where Seymour can make a statement to clear his name as well as Mushnik's conscience.
    • The Urchins stand in Orin's way when he comes to pick up Audrey. They tell him to leave her alone.
    • When Orin meets Seymour while picking up Audrey, he tells him in all seriousness that the plant is his ticket to a successful life away from Skid Row and encourages him to take advantage of it.
  • Phrase Catcher: The fact that Audrey II is a "strange and interesting plant" is repeated by no fewer than five characters in the scene where Seymour puts it in Mushnik's display window. Strange and interesting indeed.
  • Planet Spaceship: Audrey II beams down to Earth during an unprecedented eclipse, implying that he came here in a spaceship large enough to block out the sun.
  • Plant Aliens
  • Poor Communication Kills: We could have avoided all this if Audrey admitted her love to Seymour, or if Seymour recognized her attraction.
  • Predecessor Casting Gag: Lee Wilkof, the original Seymour, played Seymour's father figure Mr. Mushnik in a 2003 production and again in a 2018 production.
  • Redemption Equals Death: For Seymour, who doesn't actually end up killing Audrey II. At least he tries.
  • Released to Elsewhere: After Mushnik is killed, Seymour claims he is visiting his sister in Czechoslovakia.
  • The Reveal: "...Bigger than Hula-Hoops?" "Much bigger!"
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Seymour attempts one of these on Audrey II, but ends up getting eaten.
  • Sadist: Orin Scrivello is even called the Marquis de Sade in "Dentist!" It's arguable whether Audrey II also counts, given it's an alien.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Three of them, in the form of Crystal, Ronette, and Chiffon, who also function as the show's Greek Chorus.
  • Scare Chord: When Mr. Mushnik confronts Seymour before Suppertime about evidence linking him to Orin's murder, his words are punctuated these chords. The piano conductor score itself even titles this section "Melodramatic Chords."
  • Scary Black Man: Audrey II is often voiced by an African American actor.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation
  • Seemingly-Wholesome '50s Girl: Audrey counts as a subversion. She thinks she's one, but she's really The Ingenue.
    • Right before "Suddenly Seymour" she implies, but doesn't outright state, that she moonlit as a stripper when the flower shop was doing poorly, and met Scrivello while working that job. Still, that doesn't make her a Seemingly-Wholesome '50s Girl by itself.
  • Self-Harm: What Seymour does in order to feed Audrey II, initially.
  • Shipper on Deck: Crystal, Ronette, Chiffon, and Audrey II for Seymour/Audrey.
  • Shout-Out: The three urchins are named for three different girl groups of the sixties (The Crystals, The Ronettes and The Chiffons). The songs reference and parody the sixties music scene, both lyrically and stylistically. This blog has a pretty comprehensive overview.
  • Significant Double Casting: All the characters who encourage Seymour to use Audrey II for fame and fortune, directly or otherwisenote , are usually played by a single actor.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Audrey seems to suffer from All Girls Want Bad Boys, but in the end she prefers the sweet Seymour.
  • Skewed Priorities: Seymour berates his now-famous plant for eating Audrey and decides to try to destroy it. When does that happen, you ask? Right after the plant has revealed that it's actually a monster from outer space with plans to overthrow the entire human race!
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: Comedy-dominant, though the line definitely gets blurred.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: While there is a hint of a idealism feel near the beginning, it becomes quite cynical by the end.
  • Slut-Shaming: Played with in regards to Audrey, who is heavily implied to have worked as a stripper to make ends meet back when the shop wasn't doing very well. Audrey seems to slut-shame herself, citing her old job as a reason she doesn't "deserve" a good life or a good boyfriend, which fits with the fact that she has no self-esteem. She also met Orin at this job, and some of his dialogue (including outright referring to Audrey as a slut) implies that he does this to her as well, possibly using it to "justify" his abuse of her. Seymour, on the other hand, averts it, which makes sense seeing as how he views Audrey as God's gift to humanity. When she tells him about her old job, he clearly couldn't care less, outright saying that what Audrey did to pay the bills doesn't make her a bad person by any stretch.
  • Snowball Lie: Thanks to Seymour not telling anyone his "gardening secret" for Audrey Jr./Audrey II: human blood. Must be fresh.
  • "Somewhere" Song: "Somewhere That's Green" is a whole song of Audrey daydreaming about her idea of a perfect life — living with Seymour in a suburb.
  • Take Over the World: Audrey II's plan all along.
  • Tempting Fate: When Seymour first agrees to feed blood to the tiny plant: "Well, long as you don't make a habit of it or anything!"
  • Terms of Endangerment: Several examples:
    • Orin calls Seymour "stud".
    • In "The Meek Shall Inherit", Bernstein, Mrs. Luce and Skip Snip address Seymour with increasingly uncomfortable pet names ("dollface", "my sweet, sweet thing", and "pussycat", to name a few).
    • Audrey II flirts with the human Audrey moments before attempting to eat her.
  • Theme Naming: Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon take their names from the Crystals, the Ronettes and the Chiffons; all 1960s New York African-American girl groups.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Justified when Seymour tries it, because all his weapons can't kill the plant anyway.
    Audrey: A gun?
    Seymour: And bullets! And rat poison! And a machete!
  • They Call Me Mr Tibbs: Orin insists that Audrey call him "Doctor" and use the term "D.D.S." when referring to him. It's implied that he's beaten her for neglecting to do so ("You gotta train 'em, eh, stud?").
  • This Is a Drill: Orin's dentist drill isn't rusty, it's an antique.
  • Tragic Dropout: The Urchins, Chiffon, Crystal, and Ronnette, are stated to have stopped going to school after fifth grade, and are thus trapped on Skid Row.
    "Better ourselves? Mister, when you're from Skid Row, there ain't no such thing."
    • Seymour also states that he "never even finished grade school".
  • Too Dumb to Live: When Mushnik discovers Seymour killed Orin, Seymour tells Mushnik that he put the day's profits inside the plant for safekeeping and tells him to climb inside of it and get it. He does so and gets eaten. And later, when Seymour discovers Audrey II's true intentions for world domination, he climbs inside its mouth with a machete to try and kill it from the inside... and gets eaten.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Audrey, the most goodhearted person the show, ultimately gets eaten, even asking Seymour to feed her to the plant, since she was going to die anyway, and she thought if the plant could continue to live, Seymour could keep living happily off its money.
  • To Serve Man
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: Audrey II appears at a plant store in a solar eclipse.
  • Tragedy: The musical is a Greek tragedy, complete with a trio of singers who represent the Greek Chorus, and Seymour first sacrifices his enemy, then his father figure, then his love, then himself.
  • Villain Recruitment Song: "Mushnik and Son" has Mushnik ask Seymour to be his adopted son, which is followed immediately by "Feed Me (Git It)", where Audrey II persuades Seymour to kill people to provide more blood for the plant to feed on.
  • Villain Song:
    • "Dentist" (where Orin describes the sadistic tendencies he had in his youth that ultimately led to him becoming a Depraved Dentist), "Feed Me" (where Audrey II demands that Seymour feed it more blood by killing people), and "Suppertime" (the first instance of which has Audrey II convince Seymour to save his own skin by feeding Mushnik to the plant, the reprise having Audrey II try to lure Audrey into being its next meal).
    • Depending on how it's played, "Mushnik and Son".
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": Seymour names the plant after Audrey. It's meant to be in a nice way, as he first believes the plant is a previously undiscovered (terrestrial) breed.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Seymour fails this in a big way. And "The Meek Shall Inherit" stresses this, when he sings, "You got no alternative, Seymour, ol' boy / Though it means you'll be broke again and unemployed / It's the only solution, it can't be avoided, / The vegetable must be destroyed", but then changes his mind when he thinks about Audrey.
  • Where Do You Think You Are?:
    Better ourselves? You hear what he said, girls? Bet-ter ourselves? Mister, when you're from Skid Row, ain't no such thing.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Seymour. He plans to ignore the plant and not feed it anything—until Orin abuses Audrey right in front of him. Audrey II is fully aware that this is Seymour's Berserk Button.
    Seymour: He's so nasty, treatin' her rough!
    Audrey II: Smackin' her around and always talkin' so tough!
    Seymour: You need blood, and he's got more than enough!
    Audrey II: I need blood, and he's got more than enough!
    Both: I/You need blood, and he's got more than enough...!
    Audrey II: So go get it!
  • World of Ham
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: The plant knows some Yiddish, like "Come on Seymour, don't be a putz". (He even says "Feh!") He probably learned the Yiddish from the likely-Jewish Mr. Mushnik, who uses "mensch" and "mishegas". The lyricist/composer team, Ashman and Menken, also did many Disney movies, and the same influence is seen there (Phil in Hercules, etc.).
  • You Are Too Late: "Don't Feed The Plants" informs us humanity is screwed. All of it.
  • You Bastard!: "Don't Feed The Plants" has Audrey II's kind take over by every human on Earth buying into its promises in exchange for blood—including you.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Audrey II has no qualms about eating Seymour after his plans get enough momentum to go on without him.

Specific productions have added examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: In the 2019 Italian production, the mention of I Love Lucy in "Somewhere That's Green" is replaced with Sister Act. The actress playing Audrey, Belia Martin, played Deloris in the Spanish and Italian versions of the musical adaptation of Sister Act.
  • Adaptation Species Change: Audrey II is traditionally based on a Venus fly trap, though some productions have changed it to be a pitcher plant or a lily.
  • Anachronism Stew: The 2019 Italian production is filled with this. While the opening narration states that the show is set in "an unspecified decade", the overall setting is still 60's based and dialogue features references to movies such as Sister Act, Jurassic Park and Forrest Gump.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The 2016 Australian production starts out with all sets, costumes, and props (and even Audrey's hair) in black-and-white — with the exception of Audrey II. As Seymour's life improves (and Audrey II's influence grows), more color appears, until it ends in full color.
  • Drag Queen:
    • The Berkshire Theatre Group's production reinvents Audrey II as a drag queen (voiced by an offstage actress) instead of a puppet, adding a new, seductive layer to its relationship with Seymour.
    • The 2018 London production at Regent's Park has an actual drag queen as Vicky Vox plays Audrey II in a mix of puppetry and on-stage performance.
    • The 2019 Italian production also features a drag queen as Audrey II.
  • Erotic Dream: In the 2009 UK tour, the plant sleeps at one point and says "Yeah, baby. You make my stems all wooded."
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: In some productions, Audrey II's tentacles drop from the ceiling to assault the audience.
  • Grief Song: In the German version, Seymour responds to Audrey's death with a Dark Reprise of "Suddenly Seymour".
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Subverted after Audrey has been attacked by the plant - some productions have her come out of the plant's mouth smiling and feeling fine, only to collapse moments later as she begins to die.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: In the Pasadena Playhouse production, Audrey II's true form is mostly cast in shadow.
  • Race Lift:
    • The 2019 Italian production turns Audrey into a black woman of Hispanic origins.
    • Likewise, the Pasadena Playhouse production casts African-American actress MJ Rodriguez in the role of Audrey, while half-Filipino, half-Ecuadorian actor George Salazar plays Seymour.
    • Since May 2023, Audrey is played by African-American actress Joy Woods in the Off-Broadway revival. (Woods previously played Chiffon as part pf the revival's initial cast.)
  • Significant Double Casting: In the 2016 Australian production, there isn't a separate voice actor for Audrey II, which instead is voiced by the actors of the characters it's eaten. This means that it speaks with the Voice of the Legion toward the end — and that in all the early arguments with Seymour, when Audrey II hasn't had a taste of anyone else yet, the actor playing Seymour is speaking and singing both sides of the argument.