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Little Shop of Horrors (Broadway Cast Recording)

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Album Review

In 1978 Alan Menken and Howard Ashman created a new musical take on Roger Corman's 1960 film Little Shop Of Horrors, which became a Broadway hit. Both involve a man-eating, Venus flytrap-inspired plant named Audrey II, raised in a skid-row flower shop into a massive beast with excessive chloroplast (testosterone?) levels. Though the film was inventive and campy, Menken and Ashman's music music - a mix of doo-wop and lavish songs along the lines of Rocky Horror Picture Show — made the show's fun hilarious, its thrills outrageously gruesome. The soundtrack to Frank Oz's 1987 film adaptation carries on the musical's spirit: Steve Martin's rendition of "Dentist," about a demented psychopath who drills mouths (not just teeth) without novocaine, is achingly funny. "Downtown" is a full-powered choir of the slums; Rick Moranis works for an uptight flower shop manager ("He took me in, gave me shelter, a bed, crust of bread and a job, treats me like dirt and calls me a slob, which I am.") Martin and Moranis' sincere if limited singing is charming, and Ellen Greene returns as the original Audrey from the Broadway version; the way she belts out earth-shakingly high notes is bewildering, particularly on the lovely duet with Moranis, "Suddenly Seymour." The Four Tops' Levi Stubbs is a scene-stealer as Audrey II, particularly on the new track, the raunchy, boisterous finale "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space"; since film nominations must be new songs, it was added in hopes of an Academy Award (and did indeed receive a nomination.) When Disney added a tribute to Howard Ashman on the Beauty and the Beast credits after his death in 1992, it read: "To Ashman who gave a Mermaid her voice and a Beast his soul." He also gave a plant its appetite.

Customer Reviews

A GOOD review from a harsh critic

Whenever I see that one of my all time favorite pieces of theatre is being revived and released on CD, I am always optimistic that any changes that have been made will make the piece sharper, more focused, and allow the artists to re-create their roles with fresh interpretations. Happily, this is the case with much of the new recording of Little Shop of Horrors. First, what hasn't changed; not much has been added to the score itself. A few bits which were in the Original Broadway Production but not on it's CD have been added. ("Call Back in the Morning" as well as an expanded "Mushnik and Son".) The bridge to the title song (used in the film) has been added to this Broadway score, which I like. Most of the organ has been replaced with brass, which I am not sure if I like, but it adds a bit of pop to things. The portrayal of Seymour varies little from that which is heard on the Original Broadway Cast Recording. Hunter Foster does, as the New York reviews said, have a very nice voice indeed, and his characterization is nice... it's just the same. For the new things: Kerry Butler gives a surprisingly good performance as Audrey here. Much more grounded in reality than Ellen Greene, while still maintaining that SCI-FI fairy tale feel. She makes Audrey more of a real person rather than just capitalizing on a unique character voice... and what a voice!! A remarkable mix of sweetness and power that make her tracks a joy. I like the Doo-Wop girls a lot here, and I think they were sleighed by their recording technicians. The opening recording sounds very sparse and flat compared to the previous recording, but it is definitely not their voices. I think the recording is to blame, as well as a bit of monkeying around with the arrangement of the harmonies. A bit of work could have made them sound as full as I am sure they do in real life. The rest of their songs, including "Ya Never Know" and "The Meek Shall Inherit" are done well, and are very cool. Mushnik and the Dentist give excellent performances here as well. Mushnik's voice is strong and clear without that false "Mushnik" character voice that is so commonly heard in the role. Orin (the Dentist) is very good here too, meeting the challenge of doing the role justice without imitating Steve Martin. The demo tracks here are a great treasure to find, including Alan Menkin performing "A Little Dental Music", a song Seymour sings with the "Muzak" playing in the dentist's waiting room. Such a beautiful melody. There are parts of this recording that I wish had more "kick". Sharper percussion, maybe, or just slightly more focused timing. Overall, there are tracks here that are not as good as the versions on other recordings, but, and this is my big but, there are tracks that are better, and will stand (for a while anyway)as definitive. Well done.

Oh Boy, This was some good times.

I was Mr. Mushnik in high school musical along time ago. A 17 year old boy, born and raised in a very rural community found myself in a role acting as a late 50s Jewish man. Mr. Mushnik was one of the best roles I have played. Man makes jokes, does a little song and dance, dies in a very dramatic way... The music on this album is an amazing piece of theatre history. Good times were made with these songs oh many good times... Thank you Apple for making this album an easy access for many others to enjoy. ~ Jimmy R.

Why choose? Pick this one?

If you have to choose between the Off-Broadway recording and this one, it should never cross your mind to pick the former. The singing and orchestra are miles ahead of the original recording, and the extra songs (including one from the movie with the original Audrey II, Ron Taylor) aren't half bad either. There's no reason to choose the original over this.

Biography

Born: July 22, 1949 in New York, NY

Genre: Soundtrack

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Distinguished composer/lyricist Alan Menken is responsible for penning many of the catchiest tunes from Disney features of the late '80s onward, including such chart-toppers as "Whole New World" (from Aladdin) and "Colors of the Wind" (Pocahontas). Menken is a graduate of New York University and got his start when noted playwright Howard Ashman chose him and Lehman Engel to write the music for his 1978 adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. Menken and Ashman had major success...
Full Bio

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