Most horror fans nowadays don’t think “I want a good scare – I should go to Broadway”. And for good reason. Most of the plays we see today are actually the exact opposite of frightening – they tend to campy and fun, full of songs we know and love or these wonderful, thought-provoking themes. I know that good time and deep emotional connection is what originally brought me into the world of theatre, and is certainly the same for millions of others around the world.
But that doesn’t mean horror can’t co exist in the same realm! And it is because of that I bring you the top 5 plays you should be certain to catch next time you hit New York or London (or maybe even you own community theatre)!
You may automatically think that The Wizard of Oz is a child’s story, full of magic and catch-phrases and, to an extent, you would be right. However, in Wicked, we see the true story of the Wicked Witch, Elphaba, and her coming to be oh-so-evil. Though it does have some very driving and memorable, uplifting songs (that one could say would even defy gravity – see what I did there?), there is definitely enough ominous music, spooky moments, and occurrences of evil to get this Broadway hit onto the list.
Oh, and those flying monkeys are the things of nightmares.
You knew sooner or later Shakespeare would be on the list and you can’t talk horror and theatre without mentioning on of Billy Shake’s plays. Specifically “MacBeth”. The play revolves around MacBeth who, after receiving a prophecy that he will become the King of Scotland, goes out and kills King Duncan, only to realize that, as King, he must commit more and more murders to stray from suspicion. This play drips with frightful moment, madness, dread, and death.
Oh, and did I mention that the play itself is haunted?
The play has been full of stigma since it’s birth, tied with death and tragedy. In fact, it is mostly referred to as “The Scottish Play” by theatre-goers, to avoid saying the cursed name. This show is perfect for someone who wants to find a scare onstage and even for those who would like to see a short, Shakespeare tragedy.
3. Little Shop of Horrors
Suddenly Seymour, here is a play that we may know a little bit more about – depending on when you were born, I suppose. Rick Moranis let the world hear Seymour in the 1986 film of the same name, and let the world meet Audrey II (that plant you see on all the posters) for the first time. After discovering that his plant friend needs human blood to survive, it begins to make demands that Seymour can’t give. More and more blood, just as we like it. Add in a sadistic dentist (which is enough to scare the hell out of most people on it’s own), and you’ve got yourself a timeless piece of musical history that is exactly what a horror fan would expect!
2. Titus Andronicus
Now that we’ve gotten our intro to Shakespeare out of the way with MacBeth, let’s really dig into the good stuff – and for fans that crave a little wrench in their gut, Titus Andronicus is right up your alley. In fact, this is the first play – and possibly the only one – on the list that I would NOT recommend for folks under a certain age or maturity. Parents, don’t let your kids Shakespeare without guidance!
With lots of hate, anger, corruption, blood, amputation, cannibalism, and events that are similar to The Last House on the Left to make you cringe, this play is known as Shakespeare’s only true “horror play”. Oozing with revenge and sabotage, this play, though not quite as easy to follow as MacBeth and certainly a bit longer, is a true test for any theatre-goer to find your limits.
1. Sweeney Todd
Stephen Sondheim’s retelling of the penny dreadful about the Demon Barber of Fleet Street has become of the most famous and renowned pieces of work on Broadway. And for a good reason! This musical about a man, tragically torn from his family and city, imprisoned for years, seeking revenge on the politician who wronged him is beautifully scored, handsomely crafted, and frightfully amazing. Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney open up shop, making meat pies of all the stragglers who come into the barber shop after slicing their throats and dropping them down into the pit. All the while, Sweeney fights for the chance to reunite and save his beautiful daughter from the clutches of a truly evil villain.
I mean, if you’re rooting for a 19th century mass murdering ex-“criminal”, you know the bad guy has got to be seriously horrible. And he is. So if you are seeking out a show that will make you feel right at home – assuming that home is a place with all the lights out and blood seeping down the walls – then the audience of this razor-wielding good time is right where you want to be!