Let’s face it, horror and science fiction-themed musicals have always been the black sheep of the musical theatre world. Murder-mystery musicals have been around since the 1950s and ’60s (i.e. Redhead, Belle, and Baker Street). However, it was two shows from the 1970s that really kicked off the modern horror and sci-fi musical craze: The Rocky Horror Show, Richard O’Brien’s camp-driven send-up to B horror and science fiction movies, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s gothic musical thriller based on characters from Victorian era Penny Dreadfuls. Over the years, these shows have developed rabid cult followings and have paved the way for a handful of other horror and sci-fi musicals to find success (Little Shop of Horrors, Carrie, Bat Boy, Reefer Madness, Zombie Prom, Evil Dead, The Toxic Avenger, and others).
What is it exactly that draws theatregoers to these macabre musicals? Perhaps there is something oddly cathartic about watching vampires belt showtunes, zombies dance, giant killer plants scat, etc. If you’re a person who can’t stand these type of shows, this blog post isn’t for you. For everyone else, join me on a journey into the bizarre world of cult horror and sci-fi musicals…
P.S. Looking for more musical theatre song suggestions? Check out my professional repertoire guides here.
1. “Grow for Me” from Little Shop of Horrors (1982)
Overview: Seymour Krelborn, a poor flower shop employee, becomes increasingly frustrated with his mysterious new plant when it refuses to eat anything he tries feeding it. The situation takes a dramatic (but hilarious) turn when Seymour accidentally cuts open his finger- revealing the plant’s true desire. Outrageous Level: 7/10
2. “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons” from Evil Dead: The Musical (2003)
Overview: Archaeologist Annie Knowby recounts her various encounters with men over the years (all of which mysteriously ended in death and dismemberment). Outrageous Level: 8.5/10
3. “Sweet Transvestite” from The Rocky Horror Show (1973)
Overview: Dr. Frank N. Furter, a pansexual, cross-dressing mad scientist from outer space, arrives on the scene and introduces himself to onlookers as a ‘sweet transvestive from transexual transylvania.’ Outrageous Level: 10/10
4. “Jonny Don’t Go to the Nuclear Plant!” from Zombie Prom (1996)
Overview: 1950s high school cheerleader, Toffee, mourns the loss of her ex-boyfriend (who tragically hurled himself headlong into the Francis Gary Powers Nuclear Power Plant three weeks earlier). Outrageous Level: 8.5/10
5. “Apology to a Cow” from Bat Boy (2001)
Overview: A half-boy, half-bat creature named Edgar (aka Bat Boy) becomes overcome with grief when his adopted parents betray him. In retaliation, he slaughters a cow and vows to enact bloody vengeance on The Taylors. Outrageous Level: 9/10
6. “Dead Girl Walking” from Heathers: The Musical (2014)
Overview: Teenager Veronica Sawyer angrily resigns from The Heathers, a high school clique made up of the most popular girls in school. Fearing retaliation, Veronica throws caution to the wind and seeks comfort in bad boy, J.D. Dean. Outrageous Level: 7/10
7. “Thank God She’s Blind” from The Toxic Avenger (2009)
Overview: The disfigured and radioactive Toxie (aka The Toxic Avenger) pines for Sarah, the town’s beautiful, blind librarian. Outrageous Level: 8/10
8. “The Stuff” from Reefer Madness (2001)
Overview: Mae, hostess of the Reefer Den, contemplates leaving her abusive boyfriend, Jack. However, she struggles to walk away from the relationship due to a crippling marijuana addiction fueled by Jack and his supply. Outrageous Level: 8/10
9. “Dance with the Devil” from The Witches of Eastwick (2000)
Overview: Upon realizing that the men in the town of Eastwick have no clue how to please their wives, the devilish Darryl van Horne sets out to teach them a thing or two about sex. Outrageous Level: 8/10
10. “Once a Widow” from Clue: The Musical (1997)
Overview: Mrs. Peacock, a five-time widow, recounts her many sordid past love affairs and plans to add Mr. Boddy to the growing list. Outrageous Level: 7.5/10
How dare you forget Brecht/Weill’s Die Dreigroschenoper, the Grandfather of Horror Musicals.
Die Moritat von Mackie Messer and Seerauberjenny are two great standards, and either one could easily supplant The Stuff.
In regards to my previous message, I forgot the “comedy” bit – so I nominate You are What You Wear from American Psycho the Musical.
“There’s nothing ironic about our love of Manolo Blanik” 😎