A Fence of Real Chain Link
First it was a low, low, low-budget 1960 Roger Corman black comedy that had been filmed in a record two days (and it showed). It sank like a stone when it was released, but achieved cult status decades later.
In 1982 it became an Off-Broadway musical (score by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman, the team who did the music for Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin), and was a real smash.
The film of the musical came in 1986. It was a modest success when it was released, faded fairly quickly, then became a cult classic. How quickly fortunes change!
I have a certain affection (though not love) for Little Shop of Horrors, and I have seen all three versions. About the Corman original, the less said the better. Even the cameo by Jack Nicholson as a masochistic dental patient couldn’t redeem it.
But the two musical versions were decidedly fun.
They completely nailed the do-wop era, and there was a cheesy romanticism that overlay the Skid Row bleakness. One of the songs in the Off-Broadway original that was carried over to the film was “Somewhere That’s Green,” sung by Ellen Greene, who originated the role of Audrey on stage.
(Greene won a Tony Award for her performance as Jenny Towler in the 1977 Joseph Papp Public Theater / New York Shakespeare Festival revival of The Threepenny Opera. See how cleverly I forged a link between yesterday’s song and today’s?)
“Somewhere that’s Green” is an ode to a 1950s vision of domestic bliss that never really was. From her depressingly dark apartment on the poor side of town, Audrey wistfully dreams of
A matchbox of our own
A fence of real chain link
A grill out on the patio
Disposal in the sink
A washer and a dryer
And an ironing machine
In a tract house that we share
Somewhere that’s green
He rakes and trims the grass
He loves to mow and weed
I cook like Betty Crocker
And I look like Donna Reed
There’s plastic on the furniture
To keep it neat and clean
In the Pine-Sol scented air
Somewhere that’s green
Here’s Ellen Greene’s heartbreaking rendition of it from the film:
Now for the kicker: Family Guy’s delicious parody of it, with Audrey’s part being played by extremely pervy Mr. Herbert, a geriatric invalid neighbor who has a serious crush on Chris, his teenaged paperboy. (Turn your volume down for this one, the recording is quite loud!)