Theatre 3 Tells the Drunk History of the Little Shop of (Hic) Horrors Musical

Associate artistic director Christie Vela and director Joel Ferrell knock back more than a few drinks while retelling the history of Little Shop of Horrors opening on Oct. 6 at Theatre 3.
Associate artistic director Christie Vela and director Joel Ferrell knock back more than a few drinks while retelling the history of Little Shop of Horrors opening on Oct. 6 at Theatre 3. screenshot from YouTube
When Comedy Central announced it was canceling Drunk History after its sixth season, it served as a low point for television in a year already littered with humanity's lowest moments..

The Funny or Die's drunk storytelling series was more than just funny; it was insightful and educational. On the show, boozed-up storytellers retold history's most defining moments the way a sixth-grader who did all of his research the night before the due date would. It also dug into the meanings, lessons and importance of key historic moments, such as President Richard Nixon's famous, impromptu meeting with Elvis Presley, Frank Emi's organized resistance against Japanese internment and radio DJ Steve Dahl's infamous "Disco Demolition Night" vinyl-burning event.

It was also the last bastion of educational TV on networks that aren't funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The show's cancellation is a huge failure on broadcasters' part — especially when they have a network called, you know, The HISTORY Channel.

If the show had gone on just a little bit longer, then Drunk History could've gotten around to drunk-recapping other areas of American history, like the most defining moments in theater, particularly the 1982 opening of lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken's Little Shop of Horrors, a musical take on the classic, low-budget Roger Corman film of the same name that's opening a run of three shows at Theatre 3 starting on Oct. 6.

The comedy musical about a bookish shop employer who makes a deal with a man-eating plant to get the girl of his dreams lead the Broadway trend of turning classic movies into live-action musicals. It also brought people back to theater by focusing on the silly as much as the serious aspects of the production. Few people know that better than Theatre 3 director Joel Ferrell, who saw the original production at The Orpheum in New York, according to a new video posted on the theater's Vimeo page.

"I went down the Little Shop of Horrors rabbit hole because I'd done it once years ago," Ferrell says. "More importantly, it was the third musical I saw when I moved there, but it's a whole thing. But it's a perfect show."

If Ferrell's speech sounds a little out of place for someone who makes a living teaching people how to speak clearly in front of an audience, it's because the alcohol is doing some of the talking for him. Ferrell and associate artistic director Christie Vela brought back the Drunk History format to retell the story of the 1960 black-and-white horror film and the musical that would become another hit movie in 1986.

Just like the Comedy Central show, Ferrell and Vela toss back more than a few drinks before telling the story behind the show — but not so many that they don't have the cognitive ability to put spaces between their words. The video is a clever way to promote the show with quotable moments weaved from the plot of the storied comedy musical.

"[Ashman and Menken] singlehandedly fucking revived the Disney musical fairytale," Ferrell says of the songwriting duo hired behind classic animated musicals such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty & The Beast. "Disney is motherfucking Disney right now because of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken."

One of the best tangents of Ferrell and Vela's comes when Ferrell tries to tell the story of how Ashman and Menken hired puppeteer Martin Robinson to build the giant Audrey II plant puppet. He was working on the TV show "Snesame Street."

"It's not Snesame Street," Ferrell says. "This is good bourbon."

"Hey, hold on," Vela says mid-giggle. "Can you tell me how to get to Snesame Street?"

"No, because it doesn't exist!" Ferrell remarks. "'Cause it's Sesame Street!"

Watch the rest of the drunk history lesson below in the embedded video.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.