Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Top Three Favorite Musicals: Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors: This one goes way back. Again, I'm not entirely sure of the year (I'm reasonably sure it was 1995, but it might have been 1994), but I remember the month quite clearly. It was a Sunday night in January, and my mother pointed out that the 1986 movie Little Shop of Horrors was on TV. Why exactly she pointed this out, I now have no idea. I mean, you'd think the title would have warned her off, but I guess the fact that it was a musical made her feel it was okay. The movie was almost halfway over by the time we tuned in, being just as the part where "Feed Me" starts up. Despite this, my sisters and I were hooked. I felt compelled to write up a synopsis of what I had seen in a letter to a friend the next day, although I left out the part about how I didn't sleep at all the night before (I was very impressionable when it came to horror stuff as a kid). Even though it scared me, I still loved it.
Either later that year, or the next year, in April, my younger sister and I came in from playing outside to find my older sister watching Little Shop of Horrors on TV again. It was already at the part where Seymour gets interviewed on the radio, but my sister had come in almost at the beginning, and told us what we had missed. After that day, I was obsessed with seeing the whole thing, and scoured the Movie Guide in TV Listings that came with the newspaper faithfully, week after week. It wasn't until October that my persistance was rewarded and I got to tape the Modified for TV version. (I'm not entirely sure why it never occurred to me to rent the move from the video store, but it didn't.) After that, things jumble together a little, but I recall that at some point we all went to see a high school production of the show, and were quite surprised to find the theatrical version has a very different ending (and I later learned that the movie originally had a similar ending, but focus groups reacted badly toward it, so a new ending was shot). Toward the end of the year, I acquired the film's soundtrack on cassette (which I still have) and the sheet music, which strangely enough had the musical's version of "The Meek Shall Inherit." Somewhere along the way I learned that the songs were done by the same guys (Alan Menken and Howard Ashman) who did The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, although I don't remember exactly when I figured this out.
Probably the biggest impact that my love for Little Shop of Horrors had on my life was that it got me into Jazz Band. When I was in elementary school, I played clarinet in the school band (5th and 6th grade), and every year, the music teacher would put together a medley of songs based on a theme for the final concert of the year. The sixth graders would play and the fifth graders would act it out. When I was in fifth grade, the theme was "Golden Oldies." I was a Village Person while the band played YMCA. And when I was in six grade, the theme was "Scales from the Crypt," a mix of horror movie themes, which included Little Shop of Horrors. I was thrilled, until I saw the clarinet part, which consisted of lots of resting with the occasional whole note. I couldn't stand for that, so after practice I went up to the teacher and asked why the clarinet part was so bad. She told me that the jazz band members had a bigger part, and wouldn't you know it, there was a jazz band opening. So I was able to squeak into the jazz band, which meant that I had to play at all three concerts (the music teacher taught at all three elementary schools in town), but I didn't mind because I got to play the part I wanted (although when we started rehearsing with the fifth graders on stage, I realized that I couldn't see what they were doing, which was a little disappointing, but you can't have your cake and eat it, too, as they say), plus my parents took me out for ice cream after each one. I continued to play clarinet in the band up through high school, and I continued to try out for (and get in to) Jazz Band through middle school, and I probably would have continued into high school if it was still offered.
I also remember one time when I was not yet in seventh grade and I was riding back home from a library with a friend and his mom. Her car ran out of gas, and while we waited for her husband to come pick us up, I pulled out my cassette of the soundtrack and we listened to it all the way through. Later, my mom's friend commended me to my own mom for being so nonchalant in that situation, but I didn't really see it that way. I had books and Little Shop of Horrors, what else did I need?
In the years in since, I've seen a couple of high school productions of the show and seen the movie that the musical was based on, but I didn't get to see the new Broadway production back in 2003. I did get the cast recording as soon as I could, though.
It was actually my older sister who got the movie on DVD, when she went through a phase of buying cheap DVDs at Walmart, whether she knew the movie or not (which is how we all got into A Mighty Wind, but that's a different, shorter story). I, frankly, had been holding out on the off-chance that I would either snag a copy of the quickly-recalled DVD that included the original filmed ending or that the copyright issues would be resolved and a new DVD would be released with the original ending. (As of yet, that has not happened, but if you're curious, you can see stills on this page a little ways down.) I had, however, rented the DVD, mostly for the commentary by the film's director, Frank Oz. I'm of the firm belief that every DVD should have some sort of commentary. But my sister did go ahead and buy it on DVD, and now that she has moved away, I'm starting to think that I really should get my own copy, original ending or no.

Bonus Section:
Do you remember the cartoon Little Shop that aired on Fox back in 1991? I only vaguely remember watching it, even though it also ran on the SciFi channel sometime in the late 90's. It was a mix of elements from the musical and original movie, but put the characters in junior high. You can read more about it here, if you so desire.

No comments: