Oct 15 2013
The horror musical genre can come off as cheesy or gimmicky if you’re not careful, but those that make it are usually fan (and high school drama department) favorites. I’m talking true dyed-in-the-wool musicals and operas; ones that made it from the boards to the big screen or vice-versa. And I mean the genuinely scary or disturbing ones that you may have to clean up after. So, sorry Phantom, you don’t make the cut – ballerinas and masquerades just aren’t all that terrifying. And the good news with most of these is they exists somewhere in the depths of the interwebs in recorded form – enjoy!
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
This is for always dressing me in pinstripes, Burton!
My first exposure to Sweeney Todd was backstage in the green room at theater camp (yes, Unreaders, yours truly went to theater camp) watching the original stage production with George Hearn and Angela Lansbury. Long before Helena Burton Carter donned some crazy hair as Mrs. Lovett, our beloved Mrs. Potts originated the role on Broadway. I was amazed and disturbed and more than a little intrigued at Sondheim’s take on the penny dreadful character.
The love song “Joanna” is one of the more endearing, but watch the scene here while Todd dispatches several customers in his customary manner, while mournfully singing of his lost little girl:
The story of a vengeful barber and his enterprising partner/baker, Sweeney Todd has reached cult status once more, beyond the scope of Sondheim-groupies and drama kids. The film’s success has helped revive the 30-year-old musical, introducing a new generation of Hot Topic shoppers to macabre Victorian London all over again. One of my personal favorites is the scene in Kevin Smith’s poorly received Ben Affleck vehicle Jersey Girl, where his precocious daughter and entourage perform “God, That’s Good” at her Catholic school variety show. Hilarity ensues.
You’re going to be doing some lines for me, Mister Todd.
Oh yeah, and if that wasn’t terrifying enough, here’s the one woman more fear-inspiring than Voldemort himself – Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) as Mrs. Lovett in the London West End revival. Imagine Umbridge baking you into a meat pie courtesy of Edward Scissorhands. Now sleep tight.
Let’s hear it for the boy – let’s give the boy a hand.
Because of COURSE there is an Evil Dead musical. With songs including “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Kandarian Demons”, “Do The Necronomicon”, and “What the F*** Was That?”, the musical version of Raimi’s debut B-horror flicks is just as campy as the originals. The musical mixes together the plots from both Evil Dead films and Army of Darkness, and is currently running in 4-D (or GORE-D) at the V Theater on the Vegas strip through next summer.
Some performances even have Splatter Zones. Remember everyone’s favorite sledgehammer-wielding prop comic Gallagher? Well, picture that, but with demon blood and guts. Because wearing a Mickey Mouse poncho to the theater is tres chic. This obscenity-laced show isn’t likely to win a Tony Award anytime soon, but I challenge you to find a campier, gorier production starring a guy with a chainsaw hand.
And, because it will get in your head, my favorite number from Evil Dead:The Musical: “What The F*** Was That?” (And yes, I’ve bleeped it out here, but it is completely uncensored in the video, so you’ve been warned kids).
“Dude, these hos been zombified.”
The Rocky Horror Show/Picture Show
That face says it all.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Rocky Horror (the film) – I was 17, and sheltered to the point that I had not yet come across a film with such a tragic, inexplicable ending. I turned to my friend and said “So… that’s it? Most of them die and everyone’s unhappy and it just… ends?” Yep, pretty much. And then I embarked on my regrettable “goth” phase and started listening to the Smiths a lot and… I don’t like to talk about it.
And okay, this number isn’t all that scary (aside from the fact that you now remember when VH1 did Pop-Up Video because they always did Meatloaf’s “I Would Do Anything For Love”) but Dr. Furter does kill Eddie with a pickaxe at the end, so…
In addition to being an audience-participation heavy show, the stage version has been revamped and updated through the years to incorporate changing trends. And the movie version is pretty horrifying in its own right, when you learn the actors caught pneumonia due to lack of heat (and bathrooms) and were unaware of a “dead Eddie” underneath their dining table.
What a guy, makes you cry, und I did.
Repo! The Genetic Opera
Giles, wat r u doin. Giles, stahp.
Yes, that’s Giles from Buffy, starring as the Repo Man, and not in the Emilio Estevez sense. Probably my husband’s favorite, and he doesn’t even like musicals. The premise is a futuristic society where designer organs and other parts are available for a price to anyone desperate enough to leave a hefty IOU. Black rubber-clad men roam the night to repossess organs from patients who default on their payments. Check it out if you want to see Paris Hilton’s only decent performance EVER. Fitting that she (Hilton) was cast as a spoiled, plastic-surgery addicted, drug-seeking nympho heiress. Whose face FALLS OFF.
I almost gave that scene a standing ovation, but then there was this one – just trust me and suffer through the soprano aria til the end, it’s worth it:
Hilton’s overacting was oddly juxtaposed alongside a true modern-day diva, Sarah Brightman as Blind Mag, an operatic prisoner of GeneCo and her donated eyes. Warning: this is a true opera – overblown and wildly melodramatic, not for those seeking a solid story or substance. Just watch all the pretty, glowing colors and smile.
Little Shop of Horrors
These plants are definitely way scarier than the homicidal trees in The Happening.
The husband’s second favorite, and one of mine for the brilliance of Moranis, Martin and Murray. Pussification of the film version aside, the original Little Shop is really terrifying. Oh, and EVERYONE DIES THE END. Yup – the plant freakin wins, and everyone in America buys a clipping to put next to the lucky bamboo on their desks:
This proved to go over poorly with test audiences, so it was changed to accommodate people like pre-RHPS me who can’t handle unhappy endings. But, the Dentist number is pretty epic, especially with Steve Martin (in a rare black-haired appearance):
Another high school favorite, largely due to its expandable cast and relatively easy sets/costumes, aside from the usually rented Audrey II puppet, Little Shop takes the typical 1950′s atomic monster horror genre and expounds on it, resulting in some of the campiest/cheesiest horror in theater history. It’s still pretty gruesome when you think of mild-mannered Seymour hacking a masochistic biker-dentist to tiny, chompable pieces. Suppertime!
If you want to see something really terrifying, check out the black-and-white Roger Corman treatment, featuring a very young Jack Nicholson as the masochistic dental patient. Yes, the same Roger Corman who holds the record for most MST3K-ed films at a steady eleven. With a name like Corman, it’s gotta be crap.
Jekyll and Hyde
I saw a production of Jekyll & Hyde at our local dinner theater, long before the venue was revamped and the menu made edible. The horror of mystery meat and congealed chocolate mousse paled in comparison to the brilliant performances, especially by the actor portraying both the title characters.
You know what’s great about the 2001 television film? THE HOFF. Yep, David Hasselhoff portrays the tortured doctor and his damaged alter-psyche. The real killings don’t even start until Act Two, and even then there’s not a lot of blood; however, the best segment is the final battle between Jekyll and Hyde… played by a single actor. Very impressive in person and when done properly.
And no, there’s no word on a Nightmare on Elm Street musical… yet. But hey, they made a Spiderman musical, so I imagine it’s due any day now.
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