Oh, the drama of Halloween, this year made a cauldron more scary with COVID-19 hanging around on our doorstep like a rotting Florida pumpkin overstaying its welcome.
Long before the pandemic wreaked havoc with our psyche, Broadway had tapped into the spookiness and magic the holiday has to offer.
Here’s a selection of the best Broadway BOOS!:
Carrie: Note to self, don’t tick this girl off. Based on the 1976 film starring Sissy Spacek, this musical turn still offers Carrie as an awkward teen with telekinetic powers and a mom who is an oppressive religious fanatic. After a horrible humiliation at the prom she unleashes on her classmates – it isn’t pretty. Feel for the stagehands who are on clean-up duty.
American Psycho: Based on a book that was a popular movie starring a pre-Dark Knight Christian Bale, this musical about a yuppie turned serial killer finds a way to set music to violent “romantic” encounters, a beheading and subsequent body dissolving and the murder of a homeless man. Whew! Enough said.
Jekyll & Hyde: The doctor who unleashes his evil and murderous alternative personality got mixed reviews from critics but did have a strong fan following of “Jekkies.” Productions had varying interpretations of violence from soft-core to downright bloody. Frankly, most scary to us was the eventual casting of David Hasselhoff in the dual role, but that’s us.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: There’s not much scarier than the prospect of becoming a meat pie, which was a possible outcome in this bloody musical thriller with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The original 1979 production starred Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury, in role that belied her grandmotherly persona.
The Phantom of the Opera: A beloved Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that is a dark, gothic romance about an obsessive and disfigured man who hides behind a mask while wooing a singing ingenue. If that doesn’t creep you out, watch out for the ornate chandelier suspended over audience which perilously drops toward the paying customers.
Beetlejuice: If macabre humor is what you’re looking for, this show is your perfect night of the living dead. A deceased couple haunting their home get some help from “Betelgeuse,” a nasty, weird character that takes centerstage more so than in the original movie. Some jokes are crude but they don’t overshadow the message of living your life while you still have one.
Blithe Spirit: Hitting Broadway in the 1940s, this comedic play by Noel Coward has a couple inviting an eccentric medium and clairvoyant to their home for a séance in order to gather insight for a novel. Unfortunately, the mystic congers up the spirit of the author’s first wife, and his second wife is clueless of what is going on as hilarity ensues. A musical version of the production called High Spirits, debuted on Broadway in 1964.
Little Shop of Horrors: A Broadway musical that may have you giving your houseplants a second look. Don’t let the doo-wop and rock tunes lull you, the plant named Audrey II is a hungry killer with a taste for human flesh and blood. And then there is the evil dentist!
The Rocky Horror Show: Before it became the cult movie (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), actor-composer Richard O’Brien conceived this stage show that combined schlock horror movies, science fiction, beach muscle films and rock music. But the more staid in the audience were likely more “horrified” by the sweet transvestite Dr. Frank-N-Furter and the touch of cannibalism. The Broadway production only lasted 45 performances, but stage performances that accompany screenings of the film can still be found around Halloween.
Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein: A successful 1974 film horror parody, the stage version isn’t so much scary as it is haunting at times. The Monster and Igor give it the “creepy” tone, but it’s hard to be scared of a creature who dances to “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”
The Addams Family: More creepy than scary, The Addams clan have supernatural abilities and have decorated their home in Early Gothic Morbid. The family’s youngest daughter, Wednesday, and her desire to be “normal” is the crux of the story, that of course ends with parents Gomez and Morticia doing what’s best for their child. See, not scary at all.
Wicked: This is only included because it has a great witch, who is revealed to have a sweet, mushy center prior to Dorothy from Kansas dropping in. The origin story of the good and bad witches from The Wizard of Oz isn’t much of a fright unless a seatmate sings “Defying Gravity” too loudly and off-key.