Note: Top Five, a wholly original idea entirely un-lifted from any Nick Hornby novels slash John Cusack films, is a feature we’re hoping to run fairly regularly on the blog, wherein one of us lists our Top Five favorite something or others, (often related to musical theater, sometimes, perhaps, not) and then you tell us how wrong we are.
Darth Vader. Hannibal Lector. That little gray guy who was always trying to suck the color out of Rainbow Bright’s world. Let’s face it, the bad guy is always, always cooler than the good guy.
Why should it be any different in a musical? Alright, maybe if Javier Bardem’s character in No Country for Old Men had to sing he would have lost a little bit of his edge, but still, some writers are capable of setting their villains’ inner monologues to song and still maintaining their bad-assedness.
So, without further ado, here are our nominees for the Top Five Musical Theater Villains:
- Javert – Les Miserables (Boubil, Schonberg, Nunn, Caird). The gold standard for musical theater antagonists. Mainly because he absolutely positively one hundred percent no doubt in his mind believes that what he is doing is right. And the moment that belief structure is called into question, his entire world crumbles. This guy is a true bad ass. He hunts Jean Val Jean with a singularity of purpose that is absolutely ridiculous. And he never forgets the guy. We have trouble remembering people we went to high school with. Although, now that we think of it, why the obsession? Was Val Jean, like, the only guy to break parole in 19th-Century France? Perhaps Mr. Javert should get a hobby. Or a girlfriend. Or a goldfish.
- Miss Hannigan – Annie (Strouse, Charnin, Meehan). Some orphans become Batman. Others end up perpetually scrubbing floors. This woman mistreated orphan girls. Even adorable ones with a propensity for saying “Oh my goodness” nearly to the point of annoyance. And for what? What did she have to gain in it all? Apparently she really liked having clean floors. (Side note: She always made us wonder as children why anyone would want a man to nibble on her ear. Seemed strangely cannibalistic to a six year old)
- Scar – The Lion King (John, Rice, Allers, Mecchi). Shakespeare’s douchey fratricidal Claudius, only he’s a lean, hungry lion. And he’s got a scar, so it’s not just a clever name. Maniacal enough to kill his own brother in a stampede and then have his nephew internalize the guilt for it. Also, the hook of his big song is the motto of the Boy Scouts, and yet, he makes it sound bad ass.
- Audrey II – Little Shop of Horrors (Menken, Ashman). He’s a plant. He’s got soul. And he eats most of the major characters in the show.
- Jud Fry – Oklahoma (Rodgers, Hammerstein) . Part blue collar working man, part obsessive potentially murderous stalker, part that smelly kid in third grade who nobody wanted to talk to. The recording of “Lonely Room” we had as children used to give us nightmares. Seriously, creepiest musical theater song of all time. And yet, when Curly suggests that he kill himself during “Poor Jud is Dead”, you can’t help but feel for the guy. Kind of a scumbag move, Curly.
There you have it. Who’d we miss?