The student news site of Lincoln-Way East High School

The Winged Messenger

The student news site of Lincoln-Way East High School

The Winged Messenger

The student news site of Lincoln-Way East High School

The Winged Messenger

Book Recommendations
Book Recommendations
April 25, 2024

15 Musicals to Listen to Around Halloween



Although it may not be as mainstream, partially due to accessibility issues, musical theatre is as broad a medium as film or literature. With many different composers, genres, styles, and eras, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a good amount of these musicals cover dark subject matter, though the way this is handled varies from show to show. These musicals are perfect to listen to as Halloween draws nearer.


I surveyed choir students via Google Forms to gauge the popularity of these musicals. Sweeney Todd was the most popular by far, with twenty-four of the twenty-five people surveyed recognizing this musical. This statistic shouldn’t be surprising considering Lincoln-Way East performed Sweeney Todd only two years ago. For those unfamiliar with the plot, Sweeney Todd follows its titular character as he returns to London; his desire for revenge motivates him to murder his clients under the guise of shaving them.


The Phantom of the Opera was tied with Sweeney Todd for most-recognized musical, but again, Lincoln-Way East will be performing The Phantom of the Opera this spring. This musical has both a movie adaptation and a proshot, a professionally recorded version of the stage show a la Hamilton, and it played an important role in the megamusical craze of the ‘80s. Andrew Lloyd Webber is the composer and lyricist for The Phantom of the Opera, and the opulent sets, elaborate costumes, and lush, operatic, orchestral score are similar to many of his shows, which are some of the most widely-recognized Broadway musicals in history. The Phantom of the Opera is the story of Christine Daaé, a chorus girl turned leading lady, and her passionate love affairs with the titular character and her childhood friend, Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny. You can see it here at Lincoln-Way East on April 13th and 14th.


            Little Shop of Horrors is among the most beloved and well-recognized Halloween shows, which is a bit odd because the show has almost exclusively run off-Broadway. According to Music Theatre International, the company that licenses the show, Little Shop of Horrors has 168 global productions scheduled for the rest of this year and all next year. It also has a fairly popular film adaptation starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, and Steve Martin. The story for this one is simple, really: boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy finds a bloodthirsty plant that promises him everything he’s ever wanted. It was written by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who worked on a lot of our childhood favorite Disney films, and the show is a personal favorite of this author.


Chicago’s film adaptation takes a more maximalist approach than the current revival production running on Broadway, and it is notable in that it won the Oscar for Best Picture after decades of disinterest in movie musicals. The stage production was choreographed by Bob Fosse, and Kander and Ebb’s score incorporates vaudevillian elements. The show is one of the longest running on Broadway, and it runs on “stunt casting”, or casting a big star to get people to buy tickets. Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart are the two leading ladies – and murderesses. The show follows Roxie’s experience with the U.S. prison system as she tries to make a name for herself in showbiz.


A lot of Halloween musicals are adaptations. Sweeney Todd is adapted from a penny-dreadful, a Victorian novel genre generally regarded as trashy or poorly written, Little Shop of Horrors is adapted from a campy ‘60s B-movie by Roger Corman, and The Phantom of the Opera is inspired by a novel. However, the sources of inspiration for these musicals are much less well-known than Halloween musicals like Heathers, Beetlejuice, Carrie, and The Addams Family.


            Heathers is acclaimed among teens and newer fans to musical theatre. Its pop-rock score bares a stronger resemblance to the music one might find on their playlist rather than the stereotypical, Golden Age musical theatre score. The song “Big Fun” was trending on TikTok for a while back in 2019, and Riverdale’s musical episode brought this show into the mainstream. This dark comedy focuses on Veronica Sawyer and her boyfriend, Jason Dean, as they cover up the murders they’ve committed.


Beetlejuice gained most of its traction from TikTok. The score, much like that of Heathers, is contemporary and pop-influenced, and the cast members frequently posted backstage content on their TikTok. Their TikTok fame played an important role in their return to Broadway post-pandemic; the song “What I Know Now” is perhaps the trendiest song from the show. The protagonist, Lydia Deetz, is grieving her mother and adjusting to her new life when she meets the demon, Beetlejuice, and the ghosts of Adam and Barbara Maitland.


Ken Mandelbaum’s book “Not Since Carrie” is a large part of the show’s reputation – it infamously closed in only three days, losing seven million dollars. Despite this, the show was revived in 2012 with some updates, and perhaps this version is the version thirteen out of twenty-five people are familiar with. Perhaps they have seen Wait in the Wings’ video essay on the show’s history. Perhaps they are as interested in Broadway history and flops as this author is. In any case, this Stephen King adaptation about a telekinetic girl is prominent at Lincoln-Way East.


The Addams Family hit Frankfort around two years ago, but it quickly became the town’s “it show” for young people. Most recently, Lincoln-Way West performed the full version of the show, but numerous community theatres in our area have performed it. Hickory Creek Middle School also performed this show in 2022. The Addams Family have had multiple iterations, and the musical draws the most direct inspiration from the ‘60s tv series and the comic strip, but the plotline is unique and original. Wednesday Addams has a crush on Lucas Beineke, a “normie”, who visits their mansion for a dinner party.


As with all forms of media, there are obscure musicals which little to no people were familiar with. We Are The Tigers is among them; off-Broadway shows rarely cross into the mainstream, no matter how incredible their content may be, and Heathers fans will likely enjoy the murder mystery at a high school cheer squad’s sleepover. Lizzie is an adaptation of the Lizzie Borden story, but it subverts expectations by utilizing a pop-rock score rather than an orchestral, gothic, sweeping score. Tarrytown features actors Jeremy Jordan, Krysta Rodriguez, and Andy Mientus, yet barely anyone recognized this musical. Zombie Prom is most like Grease, but it is campier, and the parody elements are clarified for modern viewers. The language barrier is likely the reason that no one was familiar with Tanz Der Vampires, but even its English adaptation, Dance of the Vampires was not recognized. Musical theatre is a passion of this author’s, but even she doesn’t know everything. Starkid’s Hatchetfield horror comedy musicals were recently recommended to her. Obscurity does not indicate quality, however, and these musicals certainly have interesting elements to them.


With the broad range of styles and subject matter, there truly is a musical for everyone this Halloween. Take a listen to some of them. Who knows, you might have a new favorite show!




Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Winged Messenger Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *