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Your thoughts on reinterpretations

edited April 2012 in Theater
This has been on my mind since I made my "fantasy" post, since it became more about reinterpretation. So, what do you think about reinterpretations of "Little Shop"?

Now, when I say "reinterpretation", I don't mean a new adaptation. I mean taking most if not all of the original text, and changing one or two elements of the show; I.E., casting Audrey II as a female, turning Mr. Mushnik into a young black woman (which I did see), changing the time period from the 60s, etc.

I personally have no problem with them, and I'm fascinated with them. Don't get me wrong, they should only be kept to local and school productions, but there's something fascinating about them.

My favorite idea for a reinterpretation, which I think someone did do, is making it black and white like Roger Corman's original film; in the picture that I saw of the production (which I have been unable to find since), everything but the actors skin-tones, the make up, and the body of Audrey II, where black and white.

Comments

  • I think I've seen the production you're referring to! Was it in San Diego?

    Anyways, I know I might be stepping on toes by suggesting reinterpretations here, but the main two things I've always dreamed of, change-wise, have been:
    1)Readding We'll Have Tomorrow, possibly also adding some other deleted content
    and, to a lesser extent
    2)Having the Audrey Two Voice come from the actor who portrays Orin and the minor characters. After all the The Meek Shall Inherit characters are symbolically parts of the plant.
    However, if I did such a thing, I would make sure to get written legal permission first, and I would note the alterations in the program. I wouldn't want to wind up breaking the law! :(
  • "I think I've seen the production you're referring to! Was it in San Diego?"

    After a quick image search of "little shop of horrors san diego", I was able to find the picture. So yes! :)
    http://images.goldstar.com/gse_subscriber_media/000/528/270/LSoH_Brandon_mel_Phil_1.jpg

    And adding things back into the show is a grey area for me in terms of reinterpretations. To me, reinterpreting a stage show is taking the majority of the show and making an almost minor change to it that results in as few changes to the dialog as possible; you're not really adding or taking away anything, you're just twisting a detail

    But, "We'll Have Tomorrow" is possibly the best song in the entire show, and I don't see it as fat or shoe-leather in any way (in fact, I think it makes the ending a bit more emotional), so someone including it in a reinterpretation would be acceptable to me.
  • Awesome! Of the seven different productions I've seen so far, that ties for my favorite. :) I actually stayed behind for the post-show discussion (I was lucky enough to attend on the night they were having it) and got to ask the director some questions. Getting to see an eighth one in the next month or so. :D

    On the note of reinterpretations we've seen, the most "out there" one changed almost all the period references from sixties to seventies, and changed the instrumentation styles and costumes to match. Sadly, one line I predicted (why with the right advertising this could be bigger than pet rocks) didn't happen. :( I've also seen a high school production that added the Arthur Denton scene from the movie. My other "favorite" production readded A Little Dental Music, and they had six urchins. But instead of doing six urchins "just cuz", or because they wanted more actresses, they had six urchins, but only three urchin CHARACTERS - they used two sets to represent different sides of the characters. One set was preteens and the others were thirty-somethings.
  • edited April 2012
    I love reinterpretations and I think MTI should be more open to it. Also, I think more shows need to add We'll Have Tomorrow back in. It's a terrific song.
  • Guys, there's a huge difference between rewriting and reinterpreting, and most of things you're discussing here are rewrites.

    Designing a production to appear black and white is a production choice. It doesn't involve changing the words, notes or the author's intentions. Changing the time period of the piece to the 70s, casting Mushnik as a woman, etc definitely go beyond the scope of the word "reinterpretation."

    And let's be careful here--MTI isn't preventing anything from happening. All of these changes are governed by the authors, and in Howard's case, his estate. In other words, our lovely webmaster. You may think "We'll Have Tomorrow" is a lovely song (and you're right, it is) but that doesn't mean that it should be added back into the show. Howard and Alan also know it's a lovely song and made the smart decision to cut it. Because Howard was so shrewd about things like this, Little Shop of Horrors is one of the tightest musicals you will find in the canon, and that's exactly what he wanted it to be. Adding back cut material flies directly in the face of Howard and Alan's vision for the show. It also basically says to the world that you (you meaning the producer and director making the decision to add back cut material) know better than Howard and Alan how to make the show the best. Obviously that is a ridiculous assertion for a number of reasons, but the bottom line is that it is their show and their decision to make. I mean there are all sorts of wonderful songs out there in the world, many of which could match the context of Little Shop of Horrors--should we add those in too?

    I know that no one here is suggesting these things in the spirit of "I know better than Howard and Alan," but you have to realize that that's the message you send when you say things like "more shows need to add 'We'll Have Tomorrow' back in." Demos and recordings of these songs cut from Little Shop have been made readily available because the authors and all sorts of other people recognize that they are wonderful songs and great to listen to. Howard was smart and impartial enough to know that even though they're great, they aren't the best choice for the actual show. That should be respected. Just listen and enjoy. Or sing and enjoy--the music for some of these has been published so you can do them in your voice lessons and recitals!
  • Thanks, Logan. Couldn't have said it better myself (probably would have cut the lovely webmaster part : )
  • Okay, so I just saw a production of LITTLE SHOP at my college. Well done, but they took some liberties-- a Spanish/Latino Audrey rather than the Judy Holiday/Carol Channing mix, a female voice of the plant (Still Afro American, but not a booming baritone) and the "Voice Not Unlike God" part at the beginning of the show was read by the wino. And frankly, it pissed me off, especially the take on Audrey. As an author and a Dramatists Guild member, it annoyed me; and as a champion of Howard and Alan's work, it doubly annoyed me. But it was my college and my arts department and I didn't want to play the "bad guy" by emailing Sarah or MTI. I don't know if I'm making a mountain out of a molehill here, but it bugged me. Had to share that.
  • Actually, casting choices are not an issue. They may or may not work but that's up to the director. And colorblind casting is fine, too. Here's an interesting article about it:
    http://bit.ly/HQXzpY

    What's not fine is rewriting anything - book or lyrics or music, which to my mind includes adding material not a part of the published piece.

  • As long as casting choices aren't an issue. I didn't know that. They did not rewrite anything though. Sondheim has gone on the record to me and many others about being very annoyed about Hofstra University (near my school) rewriting MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG some years back, so that it began in 1955, rather than 1981-- so the finale ("Our Time") starts the show. Not only does that ruin the idea of the show and go against Stephen and George Furth's concept (not to mention Kaufman and Hart's), but it's inane and makes no sense...at least to me.
  • I was originally gonna post this in "Little Shop fantasies", but it works better here.

    I've always wanted to see what a production would be like if the sexes of Seymour, Audrey, and Orin were changed, and nothing else. Not the writing, music, or anything else.
  • @Justin:

    You mean gender bender casting as opposed to color-blind casting? Actually, I have my reservations with such casting methods, especially since I value character over story in terms of a musical. The way the story is written, those characters fill their roles perfectly (to me, at least). I could never picture Orin as a bossy spoiled princess type or a sadist without making it appear like camp, which (according to libretto notes that I remembered) was what Howard wanted to avoid in producing LSOH. And a female Audrey II? I just wouldn't be able to take his(her?) threats and presence seriously for the remainder of the show and ultimately dampens the story's message. Oh, and the urchins? Well, they're called Girl Groups for a reason (it says so in the script).

    This is just my two cents, and you can take it or leave it. Ultimately, I prefer to see the right genders in the right place when it comes to casting decisions. It can work with ensemble characters in some cases, but main characters? That's a can of bees I'm not willing to open ("can of worms" just doesn't sound that threatening or alarming).
  • edited September 2012
    @Mikhail_Cucuk You misunderstood me a bit. All I meant was I'm curious about the sexes of just Seymour, Audrey, and Orin being changed. Eveyone else, Audrey II, Mushnik, the Urchins, would stay the same.

    And I hear you. I mean, would it be My Fair Lady if Higgins was a woman and Eliza was a man? No. But, I just like thinking about it and saying "What if?"
  • I think it's a very interesting thought. I'm not saying this should happen or that it's a big important deal either way, but I think it's a neat idea. Audrey especially would be an interesting genderbent character, I think.

    I could see Orin as female pretty easily, really. And I could just as easily see Seymour as female. I don't think the motivations of these characters have anything to do with gender so I don't see why it should be so hard to imagine a switch there? Maybe I'm just missing something, or maybe it's because I'm a woman myself, I don't know. (A woman who tends to walk around singing the male LSOH-songs because I can't reach the high notes of Audrey's songs.)

    The only one who I have a feeling would be problematic in a genderbent situation would be Audrey - "Somewhere That's Green" is probably not a song anyone would write for a male character and I don't think there are many people who would treat it with the seriousness it deserves in a genderbent version. Which is sad.

    (This has been a post where I try not to get too feminist-ranty while hopefully getting some sort of point across.)
  • This is what I think needs to happen a bit more; productions that just reinvent Little Shop and make Twoey... A human? Maybe not that so much. http://utahtheaterbloggers.com/13725/little-shop-of-horrors-production-breaks-the-rules

    I just love the idea of this in general: No scenery, no costume changes, simple props, and a human, non puppet Twoey. I would say "It could be done terribly so easily", but the show's like that in general. (There's video of a production on YouTube where Twoey's just a makeshift puppet made out of two painted halves of a kiddie-pool.)

    What do you think of this?
  • What happened to the recent post in this thread? Was it accidentally deleted along with the spammers?
  • edited December 2013
    I think so. My whole account was deleted. I hope it was just an accident and that I didn't offend anyone or say something wrong.

    EDIT: I'm reposting my original comment below.
  • Hey, this is a question for Sarah about the cut song "We'll Have Tomorrow".

    I have listened to a bootleg and watched several clips of the original production of Little Shop and I completely understand why this song was cut from the original production. With the tone and pacing of the original, this song would have greatly slowed down the action in an awkward place.

    That being said, I have heard of and seen many productions of this show that have a completely different aesthetic and pacing than the original. For instance, I once heard of a production where the doo-wop girls were actually intergalactic police sent to destroy the plant (they didn't change any dialogue) or another where the entire set looked like it came out of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (a much slower and darker production). Now, some of these are not great choices and are unsupported by the text (intergalactic police), but my point is is that many productions of this show are drastically different from the original. Considering this, I believe that there are certain circumstances under which a production of Little Shop could actually be benefited by reinstating "We'll Have Tomorrow". If a director has the idea to, for example, make a more dark, tragic production of the show, then adding "We'll Have Tomorrow" could further support this, putting more focus on the relationship between Seymour and Audrey, heightening the tragedy when she dies.

    Now, if a director has a vision for the show that is unsupported by the text, they should absolutely not be allowed to add or edit material to suit their vision. I am also not suggesting that all musicals should have cut songs reinstated. "We'll Have Tomorrow" is an anomaly in that it is a cut song that I believe is on par with the best songs in the show. Furthermore, I am definitely against material being added to a show that was not written by the original creator.

    Many shows have added material to a specific production to support a director's vision. The revival of Evita, for instance, added a song written only for the movie version and Grease had many rewrites done after the movie version came out. Even Little Shop expanded the opening number for the revival, adding material from the movie. Now, the revival of Little Shop had, in my opinion, a slicker, more "blockbuster" aesthetic than the original and expanding the opening number effectively added to this. In all of these cases, permanent changes were not made to the show. Subsequent productions have the option to include or omit the added material based on what fits their production best. Once again, I do understand why the song was cut from the original production and think it was undoubtedly the right choice given the circumstances. I simply think that there are certain productions that could benefit from the inclusion of this number.

    Finally, many productions of Little Shop have made choices regarding set design, puppet design, line delivery, etc. that have changed the show far more drastically than the inclusion of one cut song would.

    So, my question is this: Are there any circumstances under which you would tolerate "We'll Have Tomorrow" being reinstated in a production of Little Shop?
  • First, sorry for the confusion, Grace, and I'm glad you're back.

    In answer to your question, Howard wrote (and directed, don't forget that) a tight, sharp, slick show and every word in it, and every word not in it, was struggled over and intended. To add a song that he cut is not something we would do or be happy about. It's difficult for us to control all the bad ideas out there - or to applaud all the good ones - but since Howard isn't here to say what he wants, Bill and I decided long ago to respect Howard's work by leaving it be. That said, in the Broadway revival we got a little pushed around. That won't happen again, I hope. We learn by our mistakes. That said, too, nothing is forever, and if a director came to us with a brilliant, well thought out take different from the original, we'd be fools not to listen. No one's come to us with anything that would remotely convince us to change Howard's work, though, and I seriously doubt they will. Why change what works so well?

    One last thing, I think there are quite a few productions that borrow from the movie version of Little Shop. It's the version that many people know now. But it's a wonderful gift to theater goers to give them the original stage production - without the film addons - so that they can experience what a wonderful piece of theater craft the original, theatrical Little Shop truly is.

    Given all of the above, I think it would be great fun to add We'll Have Tomorrow (or my personal cut-from-the-movie favorite, Where Did The GIrls Go) as recorded audience exit music, after the curtain goes down. Just not as part of the show.
  • By the way, I know the first post ruled it out, but what do you think of the notion of a new adaptation of one of Howard's works? A new LSOH film, to speak hypothetically, or a Broadway version of one of his Disney films, to speak nonhypothetically? :)
  • Sarah, adding to @Omega's hypothetical, how would you feel if a live TV production of Little Shop was pitched to you in the style of the recent Sound of Music special? I have some misgivings about the casting, but it was a faithful adaptation of the stage show with only a few minor things taken from the movie. (The only major crossover was "Something Good," and that's an alteration that's been made for every major revival, and the R&H Organization seems to be okay with it.)
  • I guess I dropped the ball on this, given the dates of your posts. My apologies. I'm all for revivals -- theater, film, tv or media as yet unknown, I just want them to be faithful to the original. That doesn't mean they have to be carbon copies, but they have to be faithful to the spirit of the piece - and the words, characters, etc. I just think, and I'm not just talking here about Howard's works, that some directors do revivals and make changes for the sake of change, just to put their own stamp on something. That's never a good idea.
  • @Mikhail_Cucuk
    I know I'm a bit late to the party, but I see no reason besides an audience member's predilections why an appropriately sinister voice actress couldn't be the Plant. I always thought the best alternative to the normal thundering, growly bass would be a nice sultry contralto who can easily slide from seductive charm to menace.
  • That's fine. Casting is certainly a director's prerogative. My concern is directors who want to change the script, song, lyrics.
  • That's quite understandable. I will admit, though, to a couple of ad-libs during my stint as the Plant in my school's recent production of LSoH. A few of us did them, but they was never egregious or out-of-character, nor our director's suggestions.
  • I was in a production of Little Shop where a very sassy lady played Audrey II, and it was great.

    However, my fantasy has always been to find a very versatile voice actor who could record the plant's lines in advance, and then also play Seymour. I can haz symbolism?
  • That would certainly be interesting. That being said, the plant might seem kind of dead since it wouldn't be able to react in the moment to the other actors line deliveries, which inevitably will change night to night.
  • More modestly, I've always thought it'd be interesting to have a plant voiced by the guy who does Orin And Others. It'd give a great edge to The Meek Shall Inherit and the only part that would have to be prerecorded would be the handful of lines and laughs in "Don't Feed The Plants".
  • @MondoMusicals
    I wondered once or twice about something along those lines, except having the Plant voiced by the actor playing Audrey in a voice just different enough from her normal Brooklyn lisp. As if it recognized and leaned toward a voice that would make Seymour more pliable...
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