Monster-Musical Mash

Aaron Netsky

Halloween offers many opportunities to listen to music. While you are putting up your decorations, or waiting for kids to come around for candy, or hosting your costume party, it’s nice to have seasonally appropriate music playing in the background. There are plenty of Halloween mixes around, with popular songs old and new that fit in with the changing leaves and rope webs, but a musical theatre fan should play show tunes, and I’m here to make sure you know that there are more than enough musicals to fill your playlist.

The obvious one is The Rocky Horror Show, a musical that already has a Halloween tradition based around it, that of sitting for a screening dressed as your favorite character and yelling extra lines at the screen at the right moments, while other people, also dressed as characters from the movie, re-enact it on a stage just below the screen. Maybe you want to go a little less conventional, but keep the fun Rocky Horror spirit. For that, there’s I’m Sorry the Bridge is Out, You’ll Have to Spend the Night. Possibly even sillier than Rocky Horror, it features a cast of classic monsters, all in one castle, plotting and lamenting with a poor lost young couple. It also features a score by the composer of the song “Monster Mash,” which was incorporated into the movie adaptation.

Perhaps you require dance music, so for that I will start by recommending my favorite of the vampire musicals, Dance of the Vampires, the Broadway production of which was like a Halloween party in an elaborate haunted house on a stage. You may have to put some effort into finding that music, but that is what the internet is for, and the title number is just one of many fine dance tunes. If you must have it on CD, and if you only plan to dance, not sing along, just get the original German cast recording. Bat Boy, Evil Dead, Young Frankenstein, and Little Shop of Horrors are also tremendous fun, and good for dancing.

Then there are the more serious monster-centric musicals, like The Phantom of the Opera, Jekyll & Hyde, Lestat, Possessed: The Dracula Musical, a more serious musical adaptation of Frankenstein, and, perhaps the most terrifying musical of all, Sweeney Todd. I’m not sure which category Carrie fits in anymore, but try it out as well. Play these recordings to get a narrative going in the background as, perhaps, some of these characters come to your door.

Those are good for a monster milieu, but you can also look to non-monster/horror themed musicals for atmospheric music. Jane Eyre, Death Takes a Holiday, The Woman in White, and EFX have plenty of eerie music, and the sense of some ethereal presence acting on the story from outside of it. Beauty and the Beast, too, when it’s not inviting you to dinner, has some edge of your seat music, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, with its songs about murder and split personalities, can sometimes fit the bill, though it is more often quite silly. Indeed, some of the murder confessions are quite disturbing. If you want some delightfully demented Americana, go with Assassins.

You can also create playlists with individual songs from otherwise completely inappropriate for Halloween musicals. “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” from The Book of Mormon, “The Dream” from Fiddler on the Roof, “The Bells of St. Sebastian” from Nine, and “Screw Loose,” from Cry Baby work well for this kind of list, as do quite a few tracks from Into the Woods. I would also specifically recommend instrumental tracks, which are usually not as popular as their sung siblings. When there are no vocals to take the spotlight, though, the music of the bells and organs and the higher registers of the violins can really come out and make you feel like you’re in an old-fashioned horror movie. The overture of Phantom is really great for this.

If your favorite scary story has not been made into a musical, look up the title and put the word “musical” in the search bar; it probably has, it’s just not well known yet. There will probably be clips, and I’m sure the writers would be very pleased if you would give them a listen and share them on social media. Go crazy, it’s Halloween. Familiarize yourself with the darker side of musical theatre. Happy haunting.

Did I leave something out? Correct me in the comments. Also, come and look at more Halloween-ish musicals at my tumblr, 366 Days/366 Musicals (