You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Musical in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’

Jake Gyllenhaal may be the Hollywood star of the Encores! staged concert reading of “Little Shop of Horrors,” but he’s not taking the last bow. He’s giving that to Ellen Greene, the stage favorite reprising the role that made her famous in the 1982 Howard Ashman-Alan Menken musical. At the July 2 matinee, as the standing-ovation audience cheered her, she looked genuinely overcome with emotion.

That afternoon performance was one of just three shows the production is squeezing in prior to the July Fourth holiday, a catch-it-if-you-can proposition that has helped make “Little Shop” the hottest ticket in town. And the day after it opened July 1, the quickie run landed the kind of swoony New York Times review that gets the hearts of Broadway producers fluttering.

At very least, Broadway will be scrambling to find a musical for Gyllenhaal to star in. The actor, who’s playing a nebbishy plant-shop employee in “Little Shop,” has already proven himself as a Broadway draw, helping to turn the play “Constellations” into a hit last season. With “Little Shop” he’s shown he can carry a musical, too.

Whether some version of this “Little Shop,” presented as part of the New York City Center Encores! Off-Center program — an offshoot of the series that spawned the long-running revival of “Chicago” — is another question. The event, rehearsed and performed in a very short window of time, had an agreeably loose, informal vibe, with scripts in hand and little in the way of sets or choreography.

That was part of the fun for audiences and, it seemed, for the actors. “Damn scripts,” Gyllenhaal muttered in an ad-lib when his character pricked his finger and drew blood. “Staged readings!”

In this concert version of the doo-wop B-movie sendup (directed by Dick Scanlan), the show’s carnivorous alien plant wasn’t represented by an elaborate puppet, but instead by an actor — at first a young boy (Anwar Kareem), before the plant grew into Eddie Cooper, who donned the bling of a green fake-fur coat and Kanye sunglasses when the plant starts to thrive.

The show’s finale brought down a projection screen on which factoids about the musical and its late co-creator Ashman were shown, underscoring the impression that this particular production was conceived more as a fan-pleasing celebration rather than as a project with commercial legs.

And please the fans it did. Greene, returning to the New York stage for the first time in years, was the audience favorite, killing it on “Somewhere That’s Green” — the I-want number for her battered, good-hearted Audrey — and on “Suddenly, Seymour,” her duet with Gyllenhaal. Cooper had a chance to bring down the house, too, with “Feed Me (Git It),” while Taran Killam yukked it up as the sadistic D.D.S. in “Dentist!”

With the ultra-limited Encores! engagement closing the day after it opened, “Little Shop” will at least give Broadway types something to talk about over the holiday weekend. Now who’s got a musical for Gyllenhaal to star in?


Popular on Variety

More Legit

  • Broadway-Breakfast-Split

    Variety to Celebrate Second Business of Broadway Breakfast With Thomas Schumacher, Diane Paulus and Diablo Cody

    Variety has announced the lineup for its second annual Business of Broadway breakfast presented by City National Bank. Joining the breakfast on Oct. 7 is the president and producer of Disney Theatrical Productions Thomas Schumacher, who will take part in the event’s keynote conversation. In his position, Thomas oversees the company’s worldwide stage productions, which [...]

  • Sue Wagner John Johnson

    Tony-Winning Producers Sue Wagner and John Johnson Announce New Venture, Wagner Johnson Productions

    Sue Wagner and John Johnson, seven-time Tony award-winning producers, announced Wednesday that they have embarked on a new theatrical business venture, Wagner Johnson Productions. Under the name, they will produce and general manage a wide scope of theater productions. One of Wagner Johnson Productions’ current projects is a musical rendition of “Almost Famous,” which will [...]

  • Sam Rockwell and Laurence Fishburne

    Sam Rockwell, Laurence Fishburne Starring in Broadway Revival of 'American Buffalo'

    Laurence Fishburne and Sam Rockwell will star in an upcoming Broadway revival of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo.” The show marks Rockwell’s first appearance on the Great White Way since his 2014 performance in the revival of Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love.” The five-year absence saw him pick up an Oscar for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, [...]

  • Secret Derren Brown review

    Broadway Review: 'Derren Brown: Secret'

    Audiences love to be fooled, whether it’s with clever plotting with a twist, the arrival of an unexpected character or even a charming flimflam man with a British accent. The latter is Derren Brown, and he’s entertaining audiences for a limited run at the Cort Theatre, where he is playing head-scratching mind games and other [...]

  • Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica ParkerNew York

    Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker to Reunite on Broadway for 'Plaza Suite'

    Real-life couple Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker are hitting the Broadway stage again for a reboot of the late Neil Simon’s 1968 play “Plaza Suite.” The staging will mark the Broadway directorial debut of Tony award-winner John Benjamin Hickey. Set in New York City’s Plaza Hotel in Suite 719, “Plaza Suite” is comprised of [...]

  • Derren Brown

    Listen: Derren Brown Spills His Broadway 'Secret'

    Derren Brown has spent a lot of his career performing magic shows on theater stages — but he’ll be the first to tell you that magic usually doesn’t make for great theater. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “If you’re a magician of any sort, you can make stuff happen with a click of your [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content