Howard Ashman tragically died too young, but even though he did not write too many shows, he easily secured a position on my list of Top 5 musical theater lyricists, and nothing proves it better than "Little Shop of Horrors". So the movie version is a little different from the stage version in its set list, but pretty much that is relevant is here.
"Little Shop of Horrors" was one of the first musicals I got across, roughly at the same time as "The Rocky Horror (Picture) Show" - Alan Menken's music is much more complex than Richard O'Brien's, and he certainly made me appreciate musicals that are fairly light but are still grounded in their creators' skills. A number like "Skid Row" cannot be written by just anybody.
The cast is outstanding. Rick Moranis and Steve Martin must have been the best-known actors when the movie was made - but they certainly bring more to their roles than stunt casting. I might be in the minority in not loving "Dentist" but Martin delivers, and Moranis actually has a pretty voice that he gets to display on a fair share of numbers.
Vocally he is outclassed, however, by a few performers, who are mostly there to sing, namely Levi Stubbs as Audrey II and Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell and Michelle Weeks as Crystal, Chiffon and Ronette. So what if "Ya never Knows" from the stage version is more plot-relevant than the movie's "Some Fun now" - if Arnold, Campbell and Weeks get another chance to belt heavenly, who am I to complain. Likewise, I don't think "Mean Green Mother from Outerspace" is as good as it wants us to think it is, Stubbs has a lot of fun performing it - and it got an Oscar nomination, so yay for stirring up some recognition.
In any case, the one person making sure to be showered with the most love is Ellen Greene. I try to avoid exaggerated praise, but she is nothing short of perfect here. Battered blonde Audrey could easily be a cartoonish character, and sure, Greene plays to that to a certain degree, but there is a hint of tragedy in anything Greene does. She may not be the vocal powerhouse some of her colleagues are, but when she opens up during the bridge of "Somewhere that's Green", her voice is stunning. Usually, I sing along with "Suddenly, Seymour" (Someone should cast me as Seymour!), but today I stayed quiet and just listened to Greene; she makes my heart break with her intensity.
CDs rarely get better than this.