When thinking about genre crossovers, horror and musicals aren’t something you would think would mesh well together. Sometimes you would be right, but quite often musical adaptations of horror films can be quite wonderful. They usually take a sharp turn into comedy (as is the case with Evil Dead: The Musical), but whatever the quality they’re usually still pretty fascinating to behold. I consider myself a pretty intense horror fan, but I have a huge soft spot for musicals, horror or otherwise (A Chorus Line and Hairspray are two of my favorites). Knowing that horror musicals exist just warms my heart. There may not be a plethora of them out there, but there may be more than you think. Here are eight of the most well-known horror musicals!
The Phantom of the Opera
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera is actually an adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s novel of the same name, but it was adapted into several films before the musical premiered in 1986 on London’s West End (it didn’t open on Broadway until 1988). The musical is actually one of the most famous musicals ever produced. With over 12,000 performances, it is the longest running Broadway show in history. It was later adapted into a film directed by Joel Schumacher (people hate it, but I actually sort of love it, even if Gerard Butler is completely miscast as the Phantom).
Written by Bernard J. Taylor, the 1994 rock opera musical Nosferatu the Vampire was conceived as a concept studio recording before opening at the Madison Theatre in Peoria, Illinois. It went on to have performances in England but never really hit it mainstream in the States.
Little Shop of Horrors
Probably the second most famous musical on this list, the adaptation of Roger Corman’s killer plant film went on to spawn another film adaptation that was directed by Frank Oz (which notoriously changed the musical’s bleak ending). After premiering off-Broadway in 1982, Little Shop of Horrors ran for 5 years. It didn’t actually make it to Broadway until 2003, when it opened at the Virginia Theatre.
Stephen King’s Carrie may not have been the best choice of source material for a Broadway musical. Carrie is one of the biggest flops in Broadway history. After the first preview at the Virginia Theatre on April 28, 1988, the performance (which starred the film’s Betty Buckley as Carrie’s mother Margaret) was greeted with a mixture of boos and applause. It premiered on May 12th of that same year to scathing reviews. Even though every performance was sold out, most of the financial backers pulled out and the musical was pulled after only 16 previews and 5 performances. Considering it cost $8 million to transfer to Broadway, it’s no wonder it is considered a legendary flop!
The Evil Dead
Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead is ripe for a musical, and it’s a glorious one at that. The stage adaptation actually uses plot elements from The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 (with the epilogue pulling from Army of Darkness), poking fun at the films and the horror genre in general with songs like “What the Fuck Was That” and “All the Men In My Life Keep Getting Killed By Kandarian Demons.” If you ever get a chance to see it, make sure you sit in the splatter zone (but buy a poncho)! It’s a crime this show never made it to Broadway.
The Toxic Avenger
Once again we have another horror musical that didn’t make it to Broadway, but The Toxic Avenger has been one of the more successful shows of its kind. After premiering in New Brunwick, New Jersey in 2008, the show moved Off-Broadway at the New World Stages in 2009 and ran for 300 performances. It went on a national tour and still gets lots of stage time even today (there were four productions just last year).
Man, I would kill to see this show. Truthfully, I didn’t know it exist until I started researching for this article, but here we are. The adaptation of Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator (which was adapted from an H.P. Lovecraft novella) premiered in Los Angeles back in 2011 to critical acclaim. It went on to appear at various film festivals, including the prestigious Edinburgh Film Festival, in 2012. There haven’t been any tours of the production, but I’m holding out hope for one one day.
The Silence of the Lambs
When a horror film wins five Academy Awards, you sort of have to adapt it into a musical. That’s exactly what Jon and Al Kaplan did when they wrote the music and lyrics for Silence! The Musical, an adaptation of Jonathan Demme’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’s book (lots of books turned movies turned musicals here, huh?) The Silence of the Lambs. Once again it takes the comedic route (look out for Dr. Lecter’s solo “If I Could Smell Her Cunt”), but it pays off in spades. After premiering at the New York Fringe Festival in 2005 (where it won the award for Outstanding Musical), it went on to land a spot on Time’s Top 10 Plays and Musicals of 2011 list. That’s no small feat for a show that began as an internet musical!
Have you seen any of the above musicals? If so, which is your favorite? Which horror film would you like to see adapted into a musical? Let us know in the comments below!