The Top-Ten Musical Theatre Villains of Broadway
Broadway musicals are often full of happy characters who cannot wait to sing their heart out or tap a little routine for you. The generalities people attach to Broadway as a happy place of song and dance are often, just that, generalities. Those of us who truly love the art form know differently. Musicals are often filled with complex characters without altruistic motives. Today's blog entry celebrates those dastardly characters of musical theatre who help us see the other side of things: the dark side of the moon so to speak. How we revel in their malicious and sinister dealings.
The Top-Ten Musical Theatre Villains of Broadway
Judd Fry- Oklahoma!
Rodgers and Hammerstein changed the landscape of musical theatre with their 1943 musical Oklahoma! Not only did they integrate the score and have it grow out of the plot and characters, they created complex characters including the dark, brooding Judd Fry. Fry is the villain of the piece, an intimidating farmhand and threatening stalker type who is obsessing over the young farm girl Laurey. Judd is not afraid to do what it takes to get Laurey, even if it's by force and even if he has to commit murder. He is one of the most frightening characters in musical theatre and not a person anyone would want to be alone in a room with.
Miss Hannigan - Annie
She's so funny that we sometimes forget to hate her, but Miss Hannigan of Annie is a villain nonetheless. From her absolute contempt for children to her wicked musical diatribe against them, she is the villainess we love to hate. Dorothy Louden played her to Tony-winning perfection in the original, taking the character over the top as she did her level best to balance out the incessant perkiness of Little Orphan Annie. For that alone we remain forever grateful to her.
Inspector Javert - Les Misérables
I have always made the argument that Inspector Javert isn't so much an evil villain as he is a misunderstood one. Sure, he hounds Jean Valjean on his own special Tour de France, but he does it because he feels like he is doing what is right. His song "Stars" let's us know he worships an Old Testament God where an eye for an eye mentality trumps forgiveness. When you understand his deeply engrained moral code, his suicide is all the more tragic. But every time he sets foot onstage, snarling and marching to the "Look Down" theme, we all feel a sense of trepidation for what's to come.
The Dentist Orin Scrivello - Little Shop of Horrors
What better way to create a villain than to capitalize on a fear that many people have. No one adores going to the dentist, so Orin Scrivello of Little Shop of Horrors obsession with causing oral pain is particularly sadistic. He is also a bully, treating the sweet Audrey like a possession, but with his dental tools in hand, we know he can and will inflict pain without novocain.
Dr. Neville Craven - The Secret Garden
There is not much that redeems Dr. Neville Craven of The Secret Garden. He basically conspires to slowly kill a little boy, to scare off the child's fathering by fostering the heartbreak the man felt after losing his wife in a freak accident, and terrorizes a little girl who has come to live with the happy family. Sure, he secretly loved the little boy's mother Lily and reveals his tortured soul in the song "Lily's Eyes", but for all intents and purposes, the guy is just wicked.
Jigger Craigen - Carousel
A slightly less disturbing version of Judd Fry in Oklahoma!, Jigger Craigen on Carousel has his own sordid issues. A burly sailor who likes the drink, he is not afraid to impose his might on women. In fact, he comes very close to violating the clueless Carrie Pipperidge when he gets her alone at a clambake. He is also the "brains" behind the robbery that eventually leads to Billy Bigelow's untimely death. He's that uncle that no one wants to get cornered by on Thanksgiving, and that guy you meet in a bar who you don't want to leave to watch your drink while you go to the bathroom.
Ursula - The Little Mermaid
"Poor Unfortunate Souls" may be one of the greatest showtunes written for a Disney villain. Sure, we first saw her onscreen, but that doesn't change the fact that every drag queen on the planet is burning to play her onstage. That, in itself, is a huge compliment to any villainess. She's over the top, witty, and don't underestimate the importance of body language! Watch out, she got The Little Mermaid's voice, she's bound to get yours!
Bill Sykes - Oliver!
This guy is some charmer. He kidnaps orphans, oversees a ring of pickpockets, bullies an old man and most horribly he beats and murders women. Bill Sykes of Oliver! is a horrific fellow, the darkest of villains to populate Dickensian London. His brutality is unequaled in musical theatre and we feel a cold shiver up our spine at the mention of his name.
Scar - The Lion King
Scar kills his own brother out of jealousy and spite. That alone makes him a cold and cunning Claudius in this Hamlet-inspired tale. Add to the mix that he frames his little nephew, the lion cub Simba for the murder, convincing the lad that he's responsible for his Daddy's death. His big musical number "Be Prepared" is a Hitler-esque manifesto of treachery and usurpation of power. He's also dryly sarcastic, and we love that from our villains.
Judge Turpin - Sweeney Todd
If there is anyone more contemptible than Judge Turpin of Sweeney Todd, I'd sure like to know who it is. He uses his position for corruption, never dispensing justice but instead using it for personal gain. He sends an innocent barber to jail for a crime he didn't commit just so he could take the man's wife and eventually rapes her. He raises the barber's daughter as his own, but leaches after her in some very uncomfortable and deplorable sexual advances. True, he does get his throat slit in the end, and we all enjoy watching it, but we despise him thoroughly and for good reason, so it's okay that we applaud. That's a spectacular villain when he or she can incite our own thrill of revenge!