Little Shop of Horrors: From the Cutting Room Floor

edited September 2017 in Theater
Since I won't be able to really step into high gear with "Little Shop: Off the Cutting Room Floor" (I need to make at least one more research trip out to DC to take a look at things I had overlooked or didn't have time to look into), every now and then, I'll post something that I came across that I thought was interesting and that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere else.

I've always been fascinated with "The Worse He Treats Me," and I've developed a fondness for it over the years. It's just so... out there. And it's just so out of place. I just couldn't figure out where it could've fit into the score. And for good reason. The version that we know, and that Alan sang in the demo, is an early version, likely with no place in the score.

If you look at the lyrics, it's not too surprising. As far as I know, Howard rarely if ever reused multiple lines or an entire chorus in a final lyric, something that occurs in The Worse He Treats Me. (Both verses start with "The worse he treats me / The more he loves me" and the chorus, "He doesn't talk of love," are exactly the same.) The song also ends with a "repeating" fade-out, something else he almost never did. However, after taking a look at how he developed Little Shop's lyrics, all three practices are practices he would use for an early set of lyrics, before he had added a song into a script. After finding a place in the script, he would then flesh-out the song by adding new lines, inserting other characters present in the scene, and writing an ending verse. Though the version we know is the early, rough, solo version, the song was added to the first few drafts of the script and fleshed out.

Taking place soon after "Grow for Me," it's sung right after Orin's introduction. While taking a walk in the park, Audrey and Orin (named Mervin Goldsmith in the first draft) run into Seymour. After a brief conversation, where Orin shows his brand of "love," Audrey suggests they take Orin down to the shop and show him the now thriving Audrey Two. Orin thinks it's a swell idea without her and, after she produces a pair out of her purse, he handcuffs her to a nearby tree. Though Seymour is reluctant to leave Audrey, upon her urging, he relents and leaves with the sadistic dentist, at which point, Crystal and Ronnette (Chiffon had not yet been added to the show), who had been sitting nearby, walk over and try to convince her to leave the sadist.

Though I'm not sure quite how long the song stayed in the show, it was cut within the first few drafts, as the song is replaced by "Somewhere That's Green" in the second earliest draft of the scripts in the Library of Congress' collection. However, the song is present in the first draft of the script, as well as in the draft performed by Howard and Alan for the Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. Concerned about how to handle the Audrey / Orin relationship, Howard said at the reading, "I've been playing around to see that, if you actually go PUNCH & JUDY, is it no longer disturbing? Cause if it's too real, I don't want to see it either. Let alone listen to a woman sing about it afterwards. [...] I thought I could create or get away with or find a way to get a PUNCH & JUDY quality out of it that makes you go, 'Oh, that poor thing! And I hate him!' so that it's two-dimensional and silly somehow. But if it's real in any way, I don't want to see it."

Here is the latest version of the lyrics, as far as I can find, transcribed from the recording of the reading. Though I can't be certain it's the last version, it is the version that feels the most like a final Ashman lyric, with no repeating lines, choruses, and an ending.
AUDREY: The worse he treats me
The more he loves me
It sounds unusual, I know
But when he hurts me
That's how he tells me
That he would never let me go.

AUDREY: I buy him presents
GIRLS: And what does he do then?
AUDREY: That's when he beats me
GIRLS: You say that's when he what?!
AUDREY: He doesn't mean it to be cruel
GIRLS: Cruel, cruel, cruel
AUDREY: I know he needs me
GIRLS: And what does he know?
AUDREY: He knows karate
And I'm his fool!

GIRLS: He doesn't talk of love
Or sunshine, or flowers, or birds
But when you're home alone together
AUDREY: One slap is worth ten thousand words

AUDREY: I give him money
GIRLS: And what does he give you?
AUDREY: He gives me bruises
GIRLS: You send a thank-you note?
AUDREY: Well, that's a fair exchange I guess
GIRLS: Guess, guess, guess again
AUDREY: But I'm still prayin'
GIRLS: Oh-wa-oh
AUDREY: He won't stop sluggin'
GIRLS: Oh-wa-oh
AUDREY: Cuz that might mean he loves me less

GIRLS: Take our advice
Seymour's so nice
He loves you more than you see
He wants you so
AUDREY: Girls, I don't know
I think I'll stay chained to this tree

It may seem psychotic to be
Erotic about Simon Legree
GIRLS: It is!
AUDREY: He's sick and despotic
But gee
GIRLS: Gee whiz!
AUDREY: The worse he treats me
The more I'm sure
He loves me!

[There is an extra verse that I feel I need to mention. Though cut out of this version of the lyric, in earlier drafts, before "Take our advice," the girls completely flip Audrey's lyrics and sing...

The worse he treats you
The worse he treats you
Don't glamorize it,
Face the fact.
That when he hurts you
He simply hurts you.
So leave with all your parts intact.]


  • The song was never in the show. It was cut after the BMI workshop when all agreed it was inappropriate.
  • That's fascinating! I need to go to DC someday and see the archive. Thanks for the post! :)
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