May 17 marks the birthday of the late Howard Ashman, the Oscar-winning lyricist and playwright known for his Disney collaborations with composer Alan Menken, as well as his work on the musical Little Shop of Horrors. To celebrate Ashman's birthday, we're taking a look back at Little Shop's original Off-Broadway production.
Little Shop of Horrors began its life as an Equity Showcase at the WPA theatre, where original book writer, lyricist and director Ashman was artistic director. The production at the WPA was so successful that producers almost immediately lined up to transfer the show to a commercial Off-Broadway run. The production closed its run at the WPA theatre June 6, 1982.
On July 27, Little Shop of Horrors opened Off-Broadway at the East Village's Orpheum Theatre, current home to Stomp. The production went on to enjoy a five-year 2,209-performance run—it was at that time the highest-ever grossing Off-Broadway production.
Below you can flip through Little Shop of Horrors' original Off-Broadway Playbill. You might be interested to see who decided to produce the show's commercial run—there's one producer in particular who, in 1982, was at the beginning of his career, but has become ubiquitous in the world of theatrical producing today. You'll also get to see that composer Alan Menken himself was in the pit for Little Shop's premiere. The two would go on to write Oscar-winning songs for Disney's The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, before Ashman passed away in 1991. Ashman's lyrics continued to live on in Broadway adaptations of all three Disney collaborations.