LSOH recording in the Lincoln Center Archive

On a trip to NYC over the summer, I had the opportunity to see the Lincoln Center archive recording of the OOBC (almost) of Little Shop. (https://browse.nypl.org/iii/encore/record/C__Rb16346957__S?lang=eng, if anyone is curious to see the library record with the cast info and such).

As expected, it was totally brilliant, but what surprised me was that it felt so different from the other versions of the show I've seen. The directing was absolutely brilliant (I said to my husband after I came out that Howard may have been an even better director than he was a writer), but the whole tone of the show was more...serious, I guess? It's kind of like the movie version of the show took the humor and "horror" and emphasized that aspect of things in the direction, whereas the original show was all about the characters. Or maybe I'm explaining this horribly, LOL. It was obviously funny and tragic and beautiful in all the right places, but despite the subject matter and the potential for things to be over-the-top there was no "camp." The dentist was genuinely scary (and for me this is the first production I've seen where that was the case), and when Audrey II talked for the first time there were actual audible gasps from the audience. I was EXTREMELY impressed (and I'm sad, because my understanding is that the TOFT only lets people see a particular show ONCE in their lifetime in the archive -- so I'll probably NEVER see it again!! :(

That said, what would the procedure be for petitioning the library, or Howard's estate, or Alan Menken, or SOMEONE to get this recording released on DVD or digital download or something, for purchase? It's FAR too brilliant to just languish in the archives, and in my opinion everyone should have a chance to see it. While I'm sure the process would be difficult (and possibly expensive) I would love to know who to get in touch with about making a release happen. Is that even a possibility? This seems like a logical place to start asking questions, at any rate, so if anyone has insights into this sort of thing, please let me know. Maybe we could fund it with a kickstarter or something...(and obviously, Sarah, if you hate the idea, shut it down -- I don't want to step on any toes!)

Also, Sarah, if you happen to know of the existence of any OOBC videos with the actual original cast -- if such a thing exists -- please let me know. I just want to have my curiosity satisfied as to whether the original cast was recorded; I don't expect THOSE to be released to the public! ;)


  • Hi Andi, Thank you for your insightful post. First, we don't have anything to do with how the library handles that video so petitioning us or Alan Menken is useless. The rights issues (which involve unions and the stated goals of the library itself) are enormous. The video is meant as a record and a research vehicle. Not shutting anything down, just giving you an overview of the reality.

    Your description of that production, though, is very much what Howard was going for. You may have already done this, but if you haven't, read the director's note at the beginning of the published script. It says it all about how Howard wanted the play performed. What he wanted is easy to say and even understand but difficult to pull off. We are hoping and working toward a new production of LSOH with a director and producer who Bill, Alan and I believe, totally understand the essence of Howard's pov. Fingers crossed and more later if discussions become reality. In the meanwhile, and to tease you a bit, Don Hahn, who is directing the documentary about Howard, has found some wonderful archival footage that will give you even greater insight into how Howard worked.
  • Thanks for the information!, and letting me know about the situation with the library. I really don't know a ton about how rights and permissions work when it comes to something like this, so I'm not even sure who the best person to contact would be. That said, so I'm clear, if I DID figure out someone to talk to about getting the recording released (not that I'm sure it's even possible) you wouldn't be opposed? Because I wouldn't even want to go ahead with figuring that sort of thing out without making sure that you and Bill and Alan Menken would be okay with it, just to start.

    I have read the director's note in the script, and IMO the original production did a fantastic job of capturing Howard's vision. It's just fascinating to me how DIFFERENT the show seems depending on how its performed and directed, and I wish more people had the opportunity to see the show how it was originally meant to be performed. I hope your new production is an enormous success! :) Also, I am SO excited about the documentary -- I'm just disappointed that we probably won't be getting a 10-hour BluRay release with all the unreleased video footage that Don Hahn probably has access to. ;)

  • That sounds pretty amazing, Andi. I wish I could see that, though it's likely not something I'll ever have access to. (since I'm not an US citizen and just going to New York is a struggle, much less trying to get access to limited access public records being a foreigner, heh) Copyright law is already difficult and fuzzy when there's ONE creator involved, I can't imagine how hard it gets when it comes to a full theater production.

    Glad to hear your description, at least, it seems in line with how the script reads to me. I've tried mentioning that Orin (in particular) wasn't originally intended to be as... campy as he comes off in the recorded versions, and people have a hard time picturing it because it's just become the standard. Thanks for sharing!

    I, for one, am excited for both the documentary and to hear more about this new production. :)
  • You are both entirely on target. Howard was fierce about playing the show straight and I have some fascinating notes and letters from him to various actors, getting them back into line when he would drop by the Orpheum and see them mugging. Orin is an especially difficult role that way. Your star moment is so easy to camp up and so hard to play straight. And audience laughs are so compelling to milk. The issue with release is as much individual performers and unions as it is copyright holders. It is also the long held position of the library that this material is for research and preservation of a moment in history.
  • I was really impressed with Orin in the video I saw. Like I said before, it was the first time I found the dentist genuinely SCARY, not just vaguely menacing -- and he's written as such a horrifying character, in some ways he's actually worse than the plant!

    Looks like the guy I saw in the video is Robert Frisch, who I am otherwise unfamiliar with. His Broadwayworld page (https://www.broadwayworld.com/people/Robert-Frisch/) doesn't have a ton of information about him -- I guess he didn't do a ton of other shows. He's not the person who was the dentist on the recording, either. But he was great! He managed to walk the balance between scary and funny perfectly, and his performance totally "got me."

    As far as getting the video, I do understand the rights issues, and I know the library is opposed to releasing the videos -- but on the bright side, I would imagine that this show had a smaller cast/crew than a lot of the shows held by the library, so at least there wouldn't be quite as MANY people to get permission from! :) I may at least TRY to pursue this. I suppose the worst case scenario would be that people say no, and nothing changes. Worth a shot, maybe?
  • Oh, and Sarah, if you wanted to do a blog post about some of those letters to actors that you mentioned, I think it would be popular with the people here... ;)
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