Anyone know the book Green Thoughts by John Collier? Thought not. In fairness, it's not known for certain that that story was the basis for Little Shop of Horrors. Other sources have been speculated, or it could've been a largely original idea.
Would anyone have remembered the b-movie on which this was based had the musical not been a success? Few do anyway, as there have been many disgruntled Amazon customers who downloaded Roger Corman's movie thinking it was the Frank Oz one and complained of being "tricked."
Alternate Aesop Interpretation: The moral of the show, as indicated by the finale, is not to give in to temptation, as fortune and fame will often come at a dire cost. However, one alternate take puts the blame less on Seymour for the decision he made and more on the society that put him in that position — there are so few avenues for the poor to escape their dismal lives, they may resort to desperate, dangerous measures. From that lens, it could be read as a Capitalism Is Bad message, not just one of personal responsibility.
Maybe Audrey II isn't evil, maybe it's jealous of Seymour's relationship with Audrey and resolves to keep him all to itself.
Seymour himself. Is he a passive little wiener whose tragic flaw is a spineless inability to stand up to anyone, or was he always selfish and amoral but just didn't have the resources to make anything of it?
Even his love for Audrey is suspect; does he truly love her or does he see her as something to possess?
One YouTube commenter has a theory that Audrey II wasn't sentient, and that Seymour was just an insane murderer and used its mouth to hide the bodies. Once Audrey finds this out, he kills her too to silence her before committing suicide. This theory would seem to be supported by the fact that during "Suppertime" Audrey II is trying to talk Seymour into killing Mushnik while Mushnik is standing right there and doesn't hear a thing. The whole world-domination part disproves this, but it's still an interesting thought.
Mushnik. He took in a street kid and is concerned for Audrey when she shows up with a bruise, but he jumps at the chance to take advantage of Seymour once he starts becoming successful and doesn't hesitate to try to blackmail him about Orin's death in the film, while asking him with concern about the evidence in the musical. Was it mundane greed, or was Audrey II manipulating him in order to push Seymour?
Even the Greek Chorus isn't exempt from this. Are Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon just observers of the events of the story, or have they motives of their own? Different productions take different interpretations - the film version emphasises their role as narrators while downplaying their actual existence as characters in the plot, for example.
The 2016 UK tour production implied that the three girls are actively manipulating Seymour for their malevolent purposes; they stand in his way when he tries to flee during "Suppertime" and they even go so far as to laugh maniacally during "Don't Feed the Plants".
It's very possible that Orin's mama told him to become a dentist because she was terrified of his sadism leading him to become a Serial Killer.
Upon seeing Seymour in an Orin-esque leather jacket, Audrey breaks down in tears. Is it because she feels guilty about wanting Orin gone, or because seeing Seymour wearing something that made him look similar to her abusive ex triggered her? Or is it a bit of both?
Twoey is definitely the bad guy of the piece, but exactly how bad he is can vary a lot depending on the actor or staging. A lot of actors lean into the gleefully sadistic side of the character, while others lean into the inhumanity, which raises the question of how fair it is to impose human morality on a sentient plant who is mostly concerned with its own survival. Basically, is Twoey immoral or amoral?
The 2019 Pasadena Playhouse staging had Audrey played by a trans woman, which lends to Orin abusing her possibly because he's transphobic. It especially adds poignancy when Mushnik tells her that Orin isn't a "nice boy" and Audrey's voice breaks when she says you don't meet nice boys on Skid Row, and more power when Seymour declares that Audrey is wonderful the way that she is.
The same production had Audrey II voiced by a woman – Amber Riley – and gave her sweet-talking of Seymour a more maternal quality, with the reasoning that since Seymour is an orphan, motherly affection is the perfect tool to manipulate him.
"Dentist!" is upbeat, over-the-top, ridiculous, terrifying, and just a hell of a lot of fun. "Say ahhhhhhh!"
"Don't Feed the Plants" is the perfect ending to the show.
"Skid Row" is a surprisingly sad, somber song in such a silly musical, and it works very well.
"Feed me, Seymour...feed me all night long!"
Broken Base: Whether or not Seymour should be played by conventionally attractive actors. Some say as long as the actor plays the part well, their looks don't matter, and that even the best looking of actors can be successfully dressed down to look appropriate for the role. This side also notes that Seymour is not written to be physically undesirable and use Audrey already starting the show with feelings to backup that he can be good looking. The other side believes that even if there's not much in the written script to say Seymour's ugly, Audrey does sing in "Somewhere That's Green" that he's not "a cutie," but has "inner beauty". They also argue that the fact he's such a quintessential dork makes a more homely actor a more believable fit, whilst noting that having him played by handsome men clashes too much with his insecurity. They're also likely to bring up the matter of Seymour being a rare lead in one of musical theatre's most iconic shows that can be played by an unattractive actor and that it's a disservice to plain looking performers to give the part to traditional leading men.
Cant Unhear It: As far as fans are concerned, Ellen Greene is Audrey. Originating the role to acclaim, reprising it several times even into her old age, and her famously unique character voice and belt are responsible.
In real life, a drug-addicted domestic abuser like Orin wouldn't be funny at all. But once you discover that this one is also an Elvis Impersonator who's drug of choice is nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and who takes childlike glee in inflicting pain on everybody, it's near impossible to be offended.
Depending on how it's played, Audrey's line "When I die...which should be very shortly..." can be hysterical.
Cry for the Devil: Orin is a ridiculously sick bastard whose devoted his life to torturing others. Still, his drawn out death by asphyxiation is terrifying, and as deplorable as he is, it's not exactly hard to pity him as he desperately begs Seymour for help, only to realize the one person who could save him would rather watch him die.
The three urchins, Ronette, Chiffon, and Crystal, are also quite popular in the fandom.
Evil Is Cool: Audrey II and Orin are definitely the most entertaining characters in the play thanks to their hamminess and catchy Villain Songs (and the fact that the former is a giant Man-Eating Plant). Averted in Seymour's case; he remains the same spineless wimp even as he feeds more people to the plant, and when he finally works up the gumption to destroy Audrey II, all his efforts fail and he gets eaten.
Harsher in Hindsight: It's not uncommon for audiences to let out a couple giggles the first time they see "Somewhere That's Green," in which Audrey waxes poetic about living in a house off the interstate and living an ordinary, suburban life. Then the show goes on, and Audrey develops into a mega-Woobie. The second time around, the song just seems really, really sad.
The song in which Audrey II introduces itself and offers to make Seymour's dreams come true includes the line "I'm your genie, I'm your friend". A decade later, Ashman and Menken wrote "Friend Like Me", the song in which Genie introduces himself and offers to make Aladdin's dreams come true, for Aladdin.
While already hilarious in 1982, the line in "Somewhere that's Green" about a "Big, enormous, 12-inch screen" just gets funnier and funnier as time goes on.
Hollywood Homely: Seymour's supposed to be a poor, frumpy, frail, self-described "slob," and many productions cast geeky-looking actors to convey this effect. The 2019 production, however, casts Jonathan Groff and later Jeremy Jordan as Seymour, who are both commonly seen as very conventionally attractive.
Jerkass Woobie: Seymour. He definitely crossed the Moral Event Horizon at some point (where exactly the point was is up to you), but when Audrey dies and he's left all alone, you have to feel a bit sorry for him. His backstory (a poor orphan taken in by someone who doesn't even like him), and his desperate pining for Audrey at the start of the show, watching the girl he loves get abused by someone who doesn't love her the way she deserves, garners a bit of sympathy, too.
Magnificent Bastard: The evil Audrey II is a carnivorous plant with aspirations of world conquest. Arriving to Earth during a solar eclipse, Audrey II preys on the insecurities of Seymour Krelborn, falsely promising him fame and fortune in return for fresh meat. Audrey II takes advantage of Seymour's love for the real Audrey by suggesting to make her boyfriend "disappear" and shortly thereafter tempts Seymour into luring his boss into its maws when the threat of being exposed arises. A sassy, smooth-talking manipulator even when its true nature is on full display, Audrey II successfully brought about the end of mankind and stands as the prime example of the dangers of falling into temptation.
Audrey II eating Audrey. Some blame for it rests on Seymour as well.
Seymour killing Mr. Mushnik after being blackmailed for the death of Orin.
And if he didn’t cross it then, he crosses it when he resolves to keep the plant alive even after admitting to himself that he will have to continue killing people.
Orin Scrivello (D.D.S.), meanwhile, crossed it long before the show began, what with the way he treats his patients. Not to mention poor Audrey. Heck, when he was growing up he says he shot puppies, poisoned guppies, and bashed in the heads of cats, presumably among other things. In Seymour's eyes, Orin crosses the MEH when he slaps Audrey in the face as the two exit the shop. This helps to convince Seymour that Orin would be a perfect meal for Audrey II's bloodthirst.
Pop Culture Holiday: Little Shop of Horrors Day is unofficially "the twenty-first daynote "twenty-third" in the film adaptation of the month of September," cited in the prologue as the day Audrey II came down to Earth.
Realism-Induced Horror: Amidst the fantastical horror of a man-eating plant, one of the most effective scares is Orin's casual, callous abuse towards Audrey and her inability to escape the toxic relationship.
The Woobie: Audrey (the human). Her father ran out on her when she was a child, and she grew up poor, which is why she's trapped on SkidRow. She has absolutely zero self-esteem, which is why she stays with her abusive boyfriend while secretly pining for her sweet coworker that actually treats her well — not only does Audrey not know Seymour loves her back, she doesn't even think she's good enough for him. When her scumbag boyfriend gets eaten, she's understandably glad he's gone, but feels guilty for feeling that way, in spite of how terribly he treated her. Oh, and Audrey II eats her for no goddamn reason other than to mess with Seymour.
While his actual performance was well received, many objected to Jonathan Groff playing Seymour in the 2019 Off Broadway revival on the basis that his Adonis looks and physique didn't fit with such a nerdy loser, though he has the pipes and emotional range for it. While it's not a set rule that Seymour can't be an OK-looking guy, the slight dressing down of a model like actor just didn't sit well with everyone. The production then doubled down on this when Jeremy Jordan was cast as Groff's replacement, with more people then noting that more plain-looking and nonstandard leading men were being done a disservice with actors who have many more options being selected for the role, an argument not assisted when Jordan was succeeded by Conrad Ricamora and Skyler Astin. Such fans were slightly appeased when Rob Mc Clure, who fit the bill of a more traditional Seymour, succeeded Astin.
Though not without her fans, Tammy Blanchard as Audrey was noted by many as the weak link of the otherwise highly praised Off Broadway revival, with complaints about her performance being flat and her voice being ill fitting for the role. Still, Blanchard stayed with the production until mid-2022, and was succeeded by Lena Hall, who received more favorable notices.
Adaptation Displacement: Fans of this movie are not aware of the Roger Corman movie it was based on, and are disappointed when they rent or download the original, and find out which one they're watching. To an arguably lesser extent, it has displaced the stage musical. See above for the original film's adaptation of the book.
Seymour Krelbourn. Is his letting Orin suffocate from laughing gas revenge, or is it due to him being in shock? Is him letting Mushnik being eaten by the plant because Seymour forced him to walk into the plant, or was Mushnik's backing up into the plant's mouth an action on his own accord? The movie actually encourages this, as unlike the musical Seymour is never shown actually enjoying his new-found success built on the bodies of Audrey II's victims, and the film cuts out the "Now (It's Just the Gas)" number, where originally Seymour openly acknowledges that he can do nothing and let Orin die. This is likely a big reason why the ending had to be changed.
Similarly to the musical, did Audrey II care for Seymour? Did it originally plan to kill Seymour the night of their final confrontation or did Seymour's rebellion against it drive Audrey II to do so as he risked ruining most of Audrey II's plans? Throughout the song, "Mean, Green, Mother from Outer Space" Audrey II repeatedly warns Seymour to back down and gets progressively angrier the as the song/fight continues until it concludes that Seymour has to die. Its unclear if whether Audrey II was lying to get Seymour's guard down, trying to spare him as he was still useful, or felt a form of loyalty for helping it grow from such a small plant. Audrey II swallowing Audrey in the Focus Group Ending might have been an attempt to intimidate Seymour back into submission, as she is miraculously unharmed when Seymour pulls her out of Audrey II's mouth.
Broken Base: The Focus Group Ending has practically split the fandom into two separate ones. While the Director's Cut version is usually preferred for being the same darkly comedic ending of the original play, it could also be argued that the merit of the Focus Group Ending is that it maintains the setting and characters better, as it leaves the plot set in the Skid Row area instead of branching out into a global scenario and does not abandon the characters in a comparatively brief and disconnected-feeling ending sequence that does not involve the main cast (apart from Audrey 2, of course). Also arguing for it is Frank Oz's own rationale in making the happier ending in the first place: The film's original ending carries a disproportionately heavy emotional Gut Punch that the stage version doesn't have (since Seymour is depicted as less innocent and more deserving of his fate, and the live theater convention of the cast coming out for a curtain call removes the grim finality of the characters' deaths).
Can't Un-Hear It: In addition to the aforementioned Ellen Greene, there's a few other examples.
Rick Moranis is far from the best Seymour in terms of vocal ability, but he's such a perfect fit as nerdy Krelborn that it's hard to not think of him when seeing the show.
Levi Stubbs' glorious vocals are rather unforgettable and every other Audrey II will inevitably be compared to him, even if the stage version is written a bit lower.
Comedy legend Steve Martin's relentlessly cartoonish performance and strong singing have certainly made quite a mark on Orin as well.
Crosses the Line Twice: The Director's Cut ending, as much of a Downer Ending as it is, features the incredibly funky Don't Feed The Plants as the final number. Highlights include the plants blowing up factories by blowing into their smokestacks, and laying on train tracks with their mouths open, waiting for people to drive into them.
Cry for the Devil: "It's Just the Gas" is not in the movie, which makes Orin's end not quite as chilling. With that said, he still goes out in the same horrific manner, and it's surprisingly sad when asks Seymour "What'd I ever do to you?", sounding genuinely hurt. His response to being called out for how he treated Audrey only makes his demise sadder, as with his last breath, he seems to realize just how awful he is ("Oh... her.").
Ending Fatigue: As faithful as the original ending was to the stage musical, it drags. The ending consists of two long musical numbers back to back, the first with Seymour getting eaten by Audrey 2 and the second consists of Audrey 2's army destroying the world. In fact, the film's version of the ending is even longer than in the original play. "Mean Green Mother" wasn't included in the play version, and Seymour willingly fed himself to the plant to try and destroy it from the inside. Moreover, the original "Don't Feed the Plants" sequence is 3 minutes long in the play, whereas the final cut adds 4 more minutes of instrumental song with footage of people running away.
Evil Is Sexy: Despite his abusive history, a good chunk of the fans have taken a shine to Orin.
Improved by the Re-Cut: This film is an interesting example. As originally shot, the film ends with the man-eating plant killing the two leads, reproducing, and taking over the world, just like in the stage musical it's based on. Due to negative reception from test audiences, the ending was reshot so that the heroes defeat the plant and live happily ever after, and this ending was the one used when the film was released in theaters. The version with the original ending, now referred to as the Director's Cut, is much better received today.
Narm: Mushnik's lines as he is being eaten by Audrey II. Instead of terrified screaming like you'd expect, he repeatedly shouts "Wait!" and "Hold it!" as if he's trying to hail a taxi that's passing him. Oddly, an early version of the scene has him scream like most other renditions of the scene.
Audrey II is voiced by Levi Stubbs, who is best known to animation and video game fans as the voice of Mother Brain in Captain N: The Game Master and to music fans as lead vocalist for Motown group The Four Tops.
During "Da-Doo", Danny John-Jules, who would later go on to play the Cat in Red Dwarf, can be seen amongst the group of male singers prior to the eclipse.
In a movie with such good special effects, its one notable flaw stands out; during the scene where Seymour electrocutes the plant, a digitally added explosion is placed over it and the plant simply disappears.
While Audrey II looks phenomenal, when he eats Mushnik you can quite clearly hear the sound of his shoes colliding with plastic or rubber.
Sweetness Aversion: The official ending, in which Seymour defeats Audrey II, marries Audrey, and moves into the sweet little house of her dreams with her. There's a hint of danger in that there's a new Audrey II plant in the garden, but generally fans prefer the Downer Ending in the play and director's cut, as the sweet ending feels too rushed and unnatural for the story's tone.
Ugly Cute: Audrey II, especially as a baby plant. It's weird-looking with wonky teeth and no eyes, but it's still tiny and the way it snaps at everything is amusing... even if it escalates far too quickly.
The Audrey II puppet is possibly one of the most complex animatronics of its kind, and still holds up to this day.
It gets even more impressive when you learn the puppet wasn't able to move nearly as fast as we see in the film, requiring all those scenes to be shot with Rick Moranis performing at half-speed.
The giant Audrey II's sequence in the original ending was so well-done that master puppeteer Frank Oz still doesn't know quite how he was able to pull it off to this day.
Peter Wallach's stop motion animation is pretty good as well.
What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: Through the haze of the years, it's easy to think this movie as a little less grim than it actually is - you remember the songs (composed by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken to boot...yes the same duo who wrote many of the classic Disney songs from the Disney Renaissance of the late 80's and early 90's also created the musical about a giant scary plant that eats people and manipulates people into doing the dirty work for him) and the jokes, and the fact that the ending is happy. But parents who haven't watched the movie recently should beware:
If your child is afraid of the dentist, you may want to skip that part.
The scene where Seymour chops up Orin and feeds him to the plant, which laughs with its mouth full of Orin...
That scene actually could've been worse, as props of Orin's head and arms were crafted. Oz decided at the last minute that it was too gruesome and had the props wrapped in red-splattered newspaper for the scene to obscure them (this can be seen in the workprint footage; it's not particularly gory, but it is more disturbing when you can clearly see it's his head that Seymour is holding).
We actually see the plant swallow Mr. Mushnik whole and later attempt to do so with Audrey.
This applies even moreso to the play, where the protagonist actually murders multiple people, all of the main characters die at the end, and the world ends.