I love musical theater. I grew up on Rodgers and Hammerstein, West Side Story, and Purlie, all of which I watched so often before the age of ten that the VHS tapes are now unsalvageable. As I got older, I began to discover more old movie musicals; while my mother preferred R&H, my grandmother was more of a Lerner and Loewe and Gene Kelly kind of gal. Push forward a few years, and “Seasons of Love” is in middle school choirs everywhere—mine included. I know it should have been obvious, but it was still a surprise to me: people were still writing new shows? This was the beginning of my new musical awakening. I started buying cast recordings instead of Backstreet Boys CDs, checking out songbooks from the public library, and altogether immersing myself into the world of modern musical theater.
Musical theater has been going on pretty strong for the past thirty years or so, but it’s only been recently that being a Theater Geek has been cool—we’re not those weird theater kids singing RENT from beginning to end, now. Just like with all pop culture, we’re sharing it with everyone. (Not to mention Hamilton is an international cultural phenomenon!)
So why not make theater part of your Halloween playlist? Listen to it on your commute for the next couple weeks, or play it on the loudspeaker at your house on Trick-Or-Treat night. Or just, you know, add some to your daily repertoire of evil.
There are different kinds of creepy musicals; obviously, they all have stories based around something scary or spooky, or maybe just dark and macabre. Some of these stories have dark, all-minor-all-the-time scores in the classic style, while others use rock and pop themes to make something really fucked up even more so. Sometimes they mix the two for something just…wrong. But the music is all good, so there’s that.
I’ll bet the first place your mind goes when you think “musical theater” and “Halloween” is Rocky Horror Picture Show, right? Well, maybe you should change it up and try the Rocky Horror Show Revival, which screws the music up a notch. Or if you want that same kind of creepy-goofiness, take The Addams Family for a spin—complete with tango, torture, and all the most delightful parts of the familiar family. And Little Shop of Horrors is always good for some creepy campy fun.
Want to push the ridiculousness to eleven? Evil Dead: The Musical had a splash zone when it was in production. Like “hey, first three rows, you’re going to get covered in fake blood, so be prepared, okay?” splash zone. The story has the same kind of clever camp the original film did, and you’ll be doing the Necronomicon in your sleep by November 1st.
If you’d prefer to go the darker route, with giant symphonic chords and dub-con sex oozing from the chords of power duets, there are definitely some modern classics to turn to. The Phantom of the Opera theme is a Halloween favorite, and composer Frank Wildhorn has created some great themes, too. Jekyll and Hyde is probably his most familiar show (Deborah Cox and Constantine Maroulis from American Idol recently did a revival), though he also wrote a Dracula musical that wasn’t awful but didn’t last long on Broadway. For some reason, vampires don’t do very well on the Great White Way … Lestat didn’t even last long enough for a cast recording, much to my personal sadness and regret.
The Devil’s Carnival is a horror musical film, and it is the origin of the creepiest song on the planet: “In All My Dreams I Drown.” Play that one over and over again and see how well you sleep. It was written by the same people who brought us Repo! The Genetic Opera, starring Sarah Brightman and Giles himself, Anthony Stewart Head.
And then there’s the completely opposite end of the spectrum. Heathers (yes, they made a musical based on that Heathers) is a rocky spectacle of murderous proportions. Head: The Musical, based on the B-horror movie The Brain Won’t Die, is pretty macabre, but just campy enough to add some fun to the screwed-up-ness of the story.
Bonus Tip: If you’re making a playlist—don’t forget “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” from Book of Mormon. It’s scary and wonderful.
Put “The Monster Mash” on the back burner for next year. Try a season of musical horror—which might just be the creepy edge you need to make your Halloween feel like a real night where the darkest of darks is at our fingertips.
(Note: This is obviously not an exhaustive list. Feel free to add suggestions in the comments!)