Last year, the Encores! series in New York put on a concert-version revival of the off-Broadway musical, Little Shop of Horrors, which had opened in 1982. To their credit, they brought back the wonderful Ellen Greene to re-create her role as Audrey, which she repeated in the film version. That was somewhat controversial at the time, since she wasn't a movie star, didn't even have a movie name and basically was completely unknown to most of the movie-going public, though my understanding is that the show's creators, lyricist Howard Ashaman and composer Alan Menken, were relentlessly insistent that she be used. (It's worth noting that when the show opened in London's West End, Ellen Greene starred in it there, as well.) And surprisingly, they and director Frank Oz won out. The film, alas, flopped, and whether the movie would have been successful with bigger names (not just her, but also Rick Moranis), they both were quite wonderful, and Ellen Greene was most-especially great, so I'm extremely glad her performance was captured on film. And really glad that they brought her back 33 years later for the Encores! production.
(I briefly worked with her on Naked Gun 33-1/3, where she had a funny, but small role in a sort of "Thelma & Louise" sequence with Priscilla Presley. We got to talk a bit, and she was quite personable. I remember that she was touched that I knew who she was and all about Little Shop of Horrors.)
But what makes this video -- and that Encores! production -- so additionally special is not just that it has Ellen Greene re-creating her role as Audrey, but for the other starring role as Seymour, they have (are you ready?) -- Jake Gyllenhaal. No, really. And he's absolutely wonderful. Both in his acting and shockingly his singing. Which is all the more impressive in this number since he's going up in a duet with Ellen Greene. (And it's impressive, too, how little he uses the book, given how little rehearsal time they have. I wouldn't have expected Ellen Greene to need the book, having played the role so often, but Jake Gyllenhaal is another matter. And it's not that he's "really good considering that's Jake Gyllenhaal, but...he's just flat out really good. And she soars. And knows every nuance in the role.
Best of all, this is the showstopping, "Suddenly, Seymour" number, my favorite in the show. It's a great song on it's own, but in the context it's all the better since up to this moment Ellen Greene is playing her character with her high-pitched, squeaky voice and deeply thick Brooklyn accent -- and then as the song builds, she bursts into wailing all over the place and bursting off the rafters. To the audience's credit, they know what's going on and watching something special, that this is Ellen Greene, the original, and they are decidedly appreciative.
Wonderful, too, is that the video includes 2-1/2 minutes of dialogue leading up to the song, so you get the full context. And both actors are terrific. Good as the movie was, this performance significantly richer, deeper and a bit darker, and that makes the song particularly moving. Ellen Greene's expression on the final clinch speaks volumes.
And fortunately, the video doesn't quickly cut off after the song, so we get to hear the audience go crazy. At length. (There's another video of this from a different angel that's better quality, but I like the perspective of this one more -- you get to see both faces better, and the audience on this nice is even more enthusiastic.)
As a bonus, if you're interested in seeing the other evening's performance, click here. The video and sound are much better, so you'll hear all the lines. But the angle largely gives you his back, and I like audience more in this other above. But it's worth watching. If only to see this twice...
P.S. At the very end of this clip above, the actor walking in for the next scene as Mr. Miushnik is a fellow named Joe Giafasi. As whimsy would have it, like Ms. Greene he too was in Naked Gun 33-1/3, playing the TV director during the academy award sequence. Hey, you get such information like this when you log onto Elisberg Industries, official archivist of the Naked Gun movies...