4 (Fictional) Serial Killers Who Love Musicals

A couple years back Cracked wrote an article about studios tricking audiences into seeing bad movies and one of their examples was Sweeney Todd: Demond Barber of Fleet Street.  Not that the film is bad (in my expert opinion) but Warner Bros decided it would be easier to release trailers which didn’t disclose that the film was a musical because they felt that everyday audiences would be put off by all this singing malarkey. To demonstrate the dilemma Warner Bros was in, Cracked developed this delightful pie chart.

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(http://www.cracked.com/article_15876_5-ways-hollywood-tricks-you-into-seeing-bad-movies.html)

I’ll admit I’m too squeamish to be a horror fan (let alone serial killer) but I’ve watched a lot of movies with murderous characters and noted that a love of musicals and love of killing do occasionally go together, like rama lama lama
ke ding a de dinga a dong.

 

Leon from Leon the Professional

Working as a professional hit-man, Leon lives without friends, family or even a conscience. He is reluctant to let Mathilda into his life after her family is killed but over time they form an emotional attachment, proving he is capable of love after all. Of course the film can’t just jump from a man having no soul to becoming a father figure, so early in the movie they place little hints that he is capable of feelings. Firstly is the love and care he takes to tent for his house plant. But secondly, and more important for the purposes of this article, is the look of wonder on his face when he goes to the cinema.

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That look of wonder is inspired by Gene Kelly’s seminal classic Singin’ in the Rain. Now before you argue that the wonder of cinema itself is inspiring him, Leon is not exactly a movie fan. Later in the movie, Mathilda dresses up as famous actors such as Charlie Chaplin and Marylin Monroe. Leon doesn’t even recognise, let alone care for these characters, but when she begins singing and dancing around with an umbrella, as Kelly did in Singin’ in the Rain, it’s all smiling and fatherly affection.

What I’m trying to say is, people who don’t like musicals are more inhumane than some serial killers.

 

Alex in A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange was years ahead of Sweeney Todd in combining carnage and a good show tune. Alex proclaims his love of “Ultra violence” is brought upon by the music of Beethoven and Mozart, but one of the film’s most shocking scenes is the gang rape of a woman while belting out the lyrics to Singin’ in the Rain.

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Makes you wonder what is up with that film when two of the killers on this list love it so much. Though this is the only example we get that Alex even cares about musicals, he does know all the words and I’m pretty certain that makes you a bit of a fan. Clockwork fans must have picked up on it because they developed this little mix of iconography.

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This killer has no redeeming features. Call me old fashioned, I know lots of likeable characters who technically (or straight up) count as killers, but does rape definitely crossed the line between good and evil. The only good thing we can take from this is that even in such a bleak future, quality music at least survives.

 

Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs

Once again we have a killer who primarily listens to opera (which makes me think I should re-write this list about murders who love opera). But Hannibal does quote song lyrics from the classic Broadway musical Oklahoma! when he says to Clarice that “people will say we’re in love.” He also rips the face off a man and wears it, shortly after eating another man’s ear.

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There are two murders in the film and Lecter the Oklahoma! fan is the favourite by far. The film has been made into a musical know as Silence! The Musical but it is a parody with the opening number actually sung by lambs.

 

Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

Patrick Bateman rapes and kills women and men in his apartment with a Les Miserables poster on his wall.

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He also mentions that he has matinee tickets to the show so he’s a pretty big fan. Anyone who has read the book or seen the film will know that it acts as a critique of soulless consumer culture. Musical fans may know that the 1980s not only marked the boom of Wall Street (which is blamed for giving these characters the money to be so consumer driven) but the rise of Megamusicals like Les Mis. These shows were heavily marketed money-making machines, hated by critics for having a lack of substance underneath all the epic stories and big sets. So it’s fitting that Bateman would love the high-grossing blockbuster musicals that are void of any real sentiment. His love of Les Mis is as much an understanding of this shallow character as his love of perfect business cards and Rolex’s.

I tip my hat to you author Bret Easton Ellis for creating an inside joke for us musical fans. Even though I love Les Miserables and in no way consider it part of the consumer culture or lacking in sentiment (I’ve yet to meet anyone who has seen it without crying), I understand why it has been viewed as such. Once again the film/book has been made into a musical, hopefully Bateman moonwalks with an axe to a decent show tune.

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La Cage Aux Folles

Playhouse Theatre in London

 

“We face life though it’s sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter. Face life with a little guts and lots of glitter.”

A gay couple’s relationship is tested when their son tries to hide his parent’s sexuality from the ultra-conservative parents of his fiancée. Same plot as the hilarious but unfortunately non-musical film The Birdcage.

One night, in an attempt to achieve some form of domestic bliss, I watched Better Homes And Gardens. In this episode they were demonstrating how easily you can turn your old records into fabulous clocks to hang on the wall of any child’s bedroom. The record in question that they used for this demonstration was an original Australian Cast recording of La Cage Aux Folles. I have never forgiven them. Such is my love of La Cage Aux Folles that I gave up all my hopes of domestic bliss, refusing to watch the show and considered who I could complain to about this blatant disregard for Australian Musical Theatre displayed on Channel Seven. La Cage really is one of those special musicals.

Musical comedies, however well-written, are often considered frivolous and out of touch with modern audiences. Serious musicals such as West Side Story and Cabaret are thought of with an air of sophistication because of their socio-political commentary, the kind of commentary that the humble comedy is thought to lack. La Cage Aux Folles centers on an openly gay couple who have happily raised a child together. While fairly tame by today’s standards, the show opened in 1983 as the world was still struggling through the AIDS epidemic. It is a testament to the team behind La Cage (composer Jerry Herman and book writer Harvey Fierstein) that the musical could still manage to be hugely successful despite the negative connotations that people at that time felt about gay men like the characters (and cast) of the show.

 I personally admire the way the book has been beautifully crafted so that audiences who aren’t so fabulously inclined are able to accept, if not understand, the relationship on-stage. The first romantic song (‘With Anne On My Arm’) is a straight one, sung by son Jean-Michel about his girlfriend. This tune that portrayed a traditional romance is then reprised as ‘With You On My Arm’, a song between two gay men. The couples use the same song because it is the same feelings of love and romance being portrayed. Love is analogous and if you can understand the romance between Jean-Michel and Anne then you can understand the romance between Albain and Georges.

Similarly impressive is the song ‘Look Over There.’ Jean-Michel’s biological father Georges sings it to his son as a reminder that Albain is, for all intents and purposes, Jean-Michel’s mother. While this could have been an opportunity for a politically charged soapbox speech, that just isn’t the style of La Cage. Instead we get a touching description of the many things a parent has done for their child with sentiments so universal that the audience is convinced of Albain’s right as a parent to Jean-Michel.

While there are numbers that rejoice in the campiness of the gay night club setting (complete with drag queens, flashy elaborate costumes, outrageous dancing and witty humour that only gay men can write), the heart of the show is carried by this loving family. When informed that his step-son wishes to hide him from the prospective in-laws, Albain is visibly crushed but says nothing. Seeing the usual drama/drag queen so utterly defeated shows more internal pain that if he were to cry hysterically. Being told to hide himself away like this drives him to sing the musical’s most contentious and most celebrated number ‘I Am What I Am.’

I saw the show in London with Denis Lawson as Georges and Douglas Hodge as Albain. I was very surprised a few years later when Hodge was re-cast as Albain on Broadway, not because he wasn’t brilliant in the role, but because it was a very British interpretation. The characters are all French but in almost every West End show, no one bothers to disguise their awful English accents. Hodge in particular accentuated his until he sounded like British gay comedian Alan Carr. He also added humour by doing impressions of the likes of Marlene Dietrich during the ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ number which I’m not sure if American’s would get. Hodge’s less masculine voice doesn’t make as bold a statement as George Hearn or Anthony Warlow singing ‘I Am What I Am’ but that would contradict with his delightfully playful ‘A Little More Mascarra.’

Sadly the story will always be relevant (thanks for that Tony Abbott) but the recent Broadway revival seems to have figured that as New Yorkers are more progressive, the score could be altered. The effect of the two love songs is ruined by added commentary by Georges in ‘With Anne On My Arm’ and the new words highlight Georges homosexuality for no obvious purpose than to sell Frasier as a gay man.

La Cage obviously means more to me because it deals with a subject close to my heart but this is musical theatre. These audiences are comprised mainly of gay men and fat girls who are friends with gay men. I’m sure many others would feel my seething rage at seeing felt numbers being glued around the edge of a La Cage Aux Folles record, even if they weren’t particularly interested in gay rights, just because they appreciate how fabulous a show it is.

Doctor Zhivago: A New Musical

The Lyric Theatre, QPAC in Brisbane

“I sing you all day long; a melody so strong and sweet and real”

A doctor and a poet, Zhivago struggles to choose between his family and his love Laura as the Russian revolution tears his world apart. But Zhivago is only one of three men in love with Laura…

Anthony Warlow. That is really all I need say. Of course I’m going to say more but his name on the poster not only symbolises sheer talent but acts as quality assurance for the material itself. The man never makes a wrong move. Along with Love Never Dies, this show was a part of the flux of Australian musical theatre that hit in 2011. An Australian production of a show that had only been briefly performed as a draft version in L.A years before. Or as the posters put it: A New Australian Musical. No denying the use of Australian talent in the show however. Once again Warlow shines with every note; even his stage presence is unprecedented. If there is one man who can really make you feel the anguish of a character through song it’s Warlow and luckily Zhivago has a lot of anguish. (Fairly) new-comer Lucy Maunder plays a sweet Laura but if there is any challenge to Warlow it is Martin Crewes as Pasha/Streinikov. An amazing performance for an amazing character. He begins as sweet comedic Pasha with an outstanding number in the first act but develops into Streinikov with the most tension built number in the second act.

I was anxious about seeing this one as there was no movie version, clips on youtube or soundtrack (only 2 bonus tracks released with my copy of Stage Whispers Magazine) to prepare me. I knew the plot from the classic non-musical film (which they didn’t follow much anyway) but I was walking into the unknown as I stepped into the theatre. Being an epic involving love, war, revolution and a battle of conscious I was expecting something along the lines of Les Miserables and I wasn’t completely wrong. There is similar subject matter and thus inspirational anthems (complete with flag waving) but the emotional pull  is organic and less the assault on the tear ducts that Les Mis can be (it has three deathbed songs! Three!). Like Les Mis the effects of the revolution are seen in many characters but Zhivago is much more political and serious. We get a song that gives the women’s view of war but we also see satirical comments of both the reds and whites and people switching sides to take advantage of the situation. Safe to say that Doctor Zhivago does not have the budget of Les Mis so in crossing time and place for this epic, some sets are nothing more than two benches. But while Les Mis has the barracade, Zhivago also has its main spectacle: moving projections. Truthfully it doesn’t sound like much but the result is flawless and adds to both set, plot and commentary in different places. For example as Yuri sits down to write his poems, words rain down upon the stage. Other times when big musicals would have thought out another complicated spectacle, simple stage effects work just as well. Being chased by the reds, Yuri hides while the stage turns dark and men line up with torches pointing into the audience moving an inch closer with each note. There are gun shots, people being hung, flash lighting, sound effects of war and planes in surround sound… it has a lot of action. Doctor Zhivago is not a little musical but it is an Australian work competing with the megamusical spectacles and doing a damn fine job. The most outstanding comparisons between this and the megamusicals are in the songs; lots of them, big, poetic and emotionally stirring numbers that simply stay with you. It is an absolute crime the world is being deprived of the soundtrack for “legal reasons.”