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Here are 4 spooky musicals to celebrate Halloween at home

Broadway musicals are seldom thought of as scary, but these shows are filled with some freaky frights and campy scares


“From left to right: Musical stars Claude Frollo, Audrey II and Sweeney Todd go trick-or-treating.” Illustration published on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020.

Halloween celebrations are associated with scary movies, off-putting television shows or even thrilling books. Unless you are a Broadway fanatic, musicals do not come to mind when looking for ways to spend the holiday. 

But this year, if you’re looking for something new, here’s a list of spooky, thrilling musicals that can fill that role.

"Little Shop of Horrors"

“Little Shop of Horrors” is the story of an alien plant, Audrey II, that needs fresh human blood to grow and a poor young man named Seymour who the plant manipulates into killing with the offer of the life he always wanted. The show is an adaptation of a 1960 B, or low-budget, movie by the same name and a tribute to the campy genre. 

While it does not fit into the horror the title suggests, the show relishes in the movies it takes inspiration from with a sadistic dentist, a goofy romance and a massive plant — portrayed on stage by a larger and larger puppet as it grows — bent on world domination. 

One particular song, “Now (It’s Just The Gas)” follows Seymour as he kills Orin, the sadistic dentist who is also the abusive partner of the show’s love interest and the plant’s namesake, Audrey. Seymour sets up a late-night appointment to kill him but can’t follow through. Meanwhile, Orin is getting high on laughing gas but the machine is stuck and he asphyxiates, laughing himself to death. 

For fans of those '60s era silly plot lines and doo-wop music, “Little Shop of Horrors” is perfect to laugh through Hallows' Eve. And the next show can be perfect for a double feature. 

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show"

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is the pinnacle of campy Halloween. It is extravagant in every way, if at first hidden by the bland leading duo of Janet and Brad that is soon remedied with the introduction of Dr. Frank N. Furter, played by Tim Curry in the 1975 film, a “sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania.” 

The convoluted story moves from a flat tire and a rainy night to the sexual awakening of both Brad and Janet, then all the way to aliens trying to return to their home planet, Transylvania. The music moves at the same manic pace without any limitations. 

Songs such as “The Time Warp” and “Sweet Transvestite” have spread far and wide, but the rest of the cast recording is filled with rock 'n' roll riffs and sexual tension that leaves you waiting with anticipation. 

The show provides an interesting viewing experience, live or at home with friends, in the form of callouts, where audience members basically heckle the actors — on stage the goal is to make them break character, and on film it’s just for fun. The heckling is part of the fun, especially when the actors on stage respond and react to the audience. It works on the couch as well, with a print out of some common callouts and room for your own creativity. 

Similar to “Little Shop of Horrors,” this rollercoaster of a show is a perfect way to embrace the extravagance of Halloween while staying at home. You can dress however you want, be as ridiculous as your heart desires and even throw toast around your living space.

"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is closer to the horror genre, telling the story of a barber returning to London after his wife and child were stolen by a jealous judge with the single goal of satisfying his revenge with blood. The plot takes a turn after a failed attempt on the judges' life and an embrace of indiscriminate murder and cannibalism. 

For fans of true crime and serial killers (and Tim Burton), “Sweeney Todd” is filled with murder and death. Even the music is filled with references to the “Dies irae,” a piece of classical music that is connected with Christian funerals and death. 

“A Little Priest” follows Sweeney’s first kill as his business and (one-sided) romantic partner Mrs. Lovett theorizes about what to do with the body. Mrs. Lovett happens to run a meat pie shop which serves the worst pies in London. A bright idea pops into her head to use the body as a source of meat, which Sweeney agrees wholeheartedly. 

The song is filled with puns about who is in each pie. The tone is very lighthearted for a conversation about eating human meat and selling them to unknowing customers. 

“We’ll not discriminate big from small, no we’ll serve anyone, meaning anyone, and to anyone at all,” Sweeney and Lovett sing as they begin their new business venture. 

"The Hunchback of Notre Dame"

Disney movies and musicals are iconic and a large part of many childhoods. While some villain songs can be frightening, none compare to the brutality and darkness “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is known for. This is even more accurate for the off-Broadway production from 2014, which never made it to Broadway itself. 

The show makes more of an effort to tell the story of Claude Frollo, who is the Archdeacon of Notre Dame rather than a judge, by opening with his orphaned childhood and tragic loss of a brother. It also takes a turn from the movie and moves closer to the original Victor Hugo novel with a much darker, bloodier ending. 

What makes Frollo such a frightening villain is both how convinced he is that his actions are righteous and his very real position of power and abuse of said power. Throughout the show, themes of religious persecution, genocide and disability discrimination remind the audience of the harsh and cruel reality the plot is set within. 

In the iconic “Hellfire,” Frollo wrestles with this desire for Esmeralda and his perception of himself as a holy and pure man looking for justification through prayer.

“Protect me Maria, don’t let the siren cast her spell, don’t let her fire sear my flesh and bone,” Frollo sings, using his racist beliefs and slurs to demonize Esmeralda and exempt himself from any blame.

“Destroy Esmeralda and let her taste the fires of Hell, or else let her be mine and mine alone,” he sings, revealing his true selfish and greedy nature hidden behind his supposed righteous and virtuous facade. 

Reach the reporter at and follow @RyanKnappenber3 on Twitter. 

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