With Bohemian Rhapsody and the story of Queen intending to rock you on release this coming weekend, our attention has wandered to the cinematic and TV musical, and some quirky, perhaps lesser known examples of the musical genre.
Here the nuns wear latex, the plants aren’t to be trusted, our heroes are self-obsessed braggarts and the cook pots contain meat of dubious origin. So let’s delve in…
Repo! The Genetic Opera (2007)
Repo! is the brainchild of Darren Lynn Bousmann (Saw 2/3/4) and tells the tale of Shilo Wallace, who yearns to leave the confines of her home, her overprotective father Nathan, who hides a dark secret, Blind Mag who wants to keep Shilo from making the same mistakes as she herself did, and a world where an epidemic of organ failures means that designer organs are now commonplace and people regularly buy new parts for themselves on credit. Fall behind on your payments, though…and the Repo Man will come to repossess your organs whether you want to give them up or not. Repo! is a throwback to the days of grand guignol, operatic and comedy songs often drenched in blood and sexuality. Fans of Rocky Horror should be sure to give Repo! a try, there’s a whole lot to love about it.
Standout songs – 21st Century Cure, Zydrate Anatomy, Night Surgeon.
Cannibal the Musical (1993)
There are likely few people who would think to make a musical about Alferd Packer, a convicted cannibal/murderer from the late 1800s, but if anyone was, it would be the now infamous duo of Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
In the years before South Park, they brought us this often overlooked gem of a musical, loosely based on the story of the aforementioned Alferd and his ill-fated expedition from Utah to Colorado that left his five companions dead and partially eaten. Be prepared for cheesy songs, occasionally cringe-inducing humour, and blood, guts and gore
Standout songs – Shpadoinkle, The Trapper Song.
The Devil’s Carnival (2012)
Darren Lynn Bousman and some of the cast from Repo! return to offer us another set of grisly tales, based on Aesop’s Fables, with each of our three main characters representing one of the fables. John represents “Grief and his Due”, Merrywood represents “The Dog and its Reflection” and finally we have Tamara representing “The Scorpion and the Frog” and here Hell takes the appearance of a hellish carnival, with the Devil as the ringmaster and assorted demonic carnies doling out punishments according to the sins committed in life.
Not as openly comedic as our first two entries, the tone far more serious, there’s still black humour to be found as well as beautiful costume and set design accompanying the songs.
Standout songs – Penny for a Tale, Grief, Grace for Sale.
Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008)
Created during the 2007-2008 Writers Guild strike, this was the brainchild of Joss, Zack and Jed Whedon, to create something small, cheap, but professionally made. With vocal duties mainly being taken up by Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day it tells the story of the titular Doctor Horrible (Harris), an aspiring supervillain who attempts to join the Evil League of Evil. He is constantly foiled in his attempts by the blowhard, egotistical Captain Hammer (Fillion) and as the story continues they find themselves both pursuing the same woman, a charity worker called Penny (Day).
Released online in three parts and featuring Dr Horrible recording video blogs documenting his nefarious plans, this one of the best musicals in recent times. The songs are memorable and catchy, the underlying storyline interested and funny and Harris/Fillion’s characters bouncing perfectly off each other. It is also highly recommended to pick this up on DVD as the commentary track is actually a whole other musical in its own right with new original songs.
Standout songs – My Freeze Ray, My Eyes, Slipping.
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Probably the most well known of the films here, certainly the one with the highest budget, this is a musical remake of the original Roger Corman movie of the same name. It follows the story of Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) who works in a flower shop in Skid Row and comes into possession of a curious venus flytrap-esque plant that needs blood to grow. Once it grows big enough, it not only starts craving something more substantial than blood, it reveals it can also talk and makes all sorts of promises to entice Seymout to get it what it craves.
Featuring musical numbers from Rick Moranis, Steve Martin and Levi Stubbs as the voice of the plant, Audrey II, this is a gloriously dark tale of the lengths someone will go for love and success, with great performances all round and puppet work that has stood the test of time.
Standout songs – Feed Me, Dentist, Suppertime.
Are you seeing Bohemian Rhapsody this weekend? Let us know what you make of it!