Maybe it's because The Phantom of the Opera will be closing next year, or maybe because the theatre world is rocked by the sudden passing of the legendary Angela Lansbury, but we've been thinking a lot about Broadway lately. Musical theatre showtunes are special for their abilities to make audiences feel deeply - either through phenomenal performances, arresting scores, or stories that keep us on the edges of our seats.
Over the years, there have been a number of musicals, both comedies and dramas, that lean into darker themes. If you're looking for more Halloween songs to add to your playlist this year but want something different than tracks by typical contemporary artists, we recommend looking through showtunes. Trust us, Broadway has dozens of numbers that fit the holiday theme. From ghostly ballads to ghoulish dance numbers and chilling accounts from the likes of killers, there's a song for every kind of monster in Broadway's catalogue.
Raise the lights and draw back the red curtains! Here are 15 of our favorite Halloween-appropriate songs from the world of musical theatre!
1. "The Phantom of the Opera" - The Phantom of the Opera
With its organ-led production, glorious high notes and sultriness, we can agree "The Phantom of the Opera" is a staple of Halloween music whether you're a fan of Broadway showtunes or not. Even though it will be ending soon, The Phantom of the Opera is the longest-running Broadway musical in history. Based on the book by Gaston Leroux, it tells the tale of an opera house ghost obsessed with young ingenue Christine Daaé. He kidnaps her and takes her to his underground lair where compulsory voice lessons are the norm between them. For their voyage into the Paris sewers, the spooky “The Phantom of the Opera” by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart, and Richard Stilgoe makes for haunting travel music. A gondola ride has never been so eerie.
2. "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" - Sweeney Todd
Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd! We think Sweeney Todd is one of Stephen Sondheim's best musicals, and this chilling piece is the perfect opener to the musical thriller. "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" essentially summarizes the bloody events we see unfold onstage, and is sung by the full company. With creepy voices and dissonant harmonies, it speaks of a murderous English barber who slits the throats of his customers, taking his rage out on a corrupt society and justice system. His victims eventually end up baked inside meat pies that are sold to the public. Sweeney Todd is easily the most horrific of all the musicals to ever grace Broadway, and so a song from this masterpiece deserves a spot on our list. And if you're missing Angela Lansbury this Halloween season, we recommend playing one of her Mrs. Lovett tracks aloud in her honor.
3. "Time Warp" - The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Although the movie is more popular, The Rocky Horror Picture show did start out as a 1975 stage production that eventually ran on Broadway. Therefore, you are free to blast "Time Warp" this Spooky Season if you are a hardcore theatre geek. The kinky show tells the story of Brad, Janet, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Rocky, and an ensemble of other kooky characters as they interact in a strange castle. Any song from The Rocky Horror Picture show works for Halloween, but "Time Warp" is certainly the most party-friendly. After playing it once, you'll want to do it over and over again.
4. "The Whole "Being Dead" Thing" - Beetlejuice
Beetlejuice, based off the movie of the same name, is a newer musical to hit the Broadway stage. Already, it's become a cult classic. The play's opening number, “The Whole ‘Being Dead’ Thing,” tells the audience to firmly expect the unexpected, and welcomes us to a "show about death". It's zany, goth, and isn't afraid to break the fourth wall. This, as well as most of the other songs from Beetlejuice, are totally appropriate for the Halloween season. Alex Brightman's performance as Beetlejuice makes a musical about ghosts, demons, a haunted house, and a litany of creepy creatures as fun as possible.
5. "Prologue" - Little Shop of Horrors
"On the twenty-third day of the month of September / In an early year of a decade not too long before our own / The human race suddenly encountered a / deadly threat to its very existence / And this terrifying enemy surfaced, as such enemies often do / In the seemingly most innocent and unlikely of places..." Yup, Little Shop of Horrors is a show about a man-eating plant. And it's chock-full of campy songs that will give you goosebumps. We prefer the upbeat "Prologue" for Halloween, but other songs that work from the song include "Feed Me (Git It!)", "Dentist", and "Sominex/Suppertime 2".
6. "The Ballad Of Mack The Knife" - The Threepenny Opera
Impress your theatre geek friends this year with this throwback from a 1933 Broadway show! The Threepenny Opera is a "play with music" by Bertolt Brecht, adapted from a translation by Elisabeth Hauptmann of John Gay's 18th-century English ballad opera, The Beggar's Opera, with music by Kurt Weill. While it's mostly a socialist critique of the capitalist world that follows a notorious murdering criminal named Macheath, the show does have a sinister edge to it. "The Ballad of Mack The Knife" is a pure classic, and has been covered numerous times by great artists like Bobby Darin, Sting, and Louis Armstrong.
7. "One Hallowe'en" - Applause
One of the only Broadway songs to mention Halloween directly in its title, this showtune from the underrated 1970 musical "Applause" is a saucy and dramatic narrative. With a score by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse, Applause follows the character Eve Harrington: a delusional con woman who will stop at nothing to become a great star. In "One Hallowe'en", she recalls a certain Halloween when her father’s disapproval of her fairy queen costume (which was ultimately a rejection of Eve herself) unleashed ferocity, determination, and obsessive behaviors in her. As an adult, Eve stalks Broadway star Margo Channing in an effort to emulate her, and she looks back on her own father’s scorn with bitterness in “One Hallowe’en.” This song starts off pretty and melancholy, and ends with a lively bang.
8. "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" - The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is one of the funniest Broadway shows ever written, and "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" is a showstopping number that unleashes all the demonic hilarity you could ask for. In the musical, which follows two Latter-day Saints missionaries as they attempt to preach their faith to the inhabitants of a remote Ugandan village, devout Mormon Elder Price decides to abandon his goofy companion Elder Cunningham. Consequently, his decision leads to a guilt-ridden nightmare where he lands in hell, is haunted by demons, sees Hitler, Genghis Khan, Jeffrey Dahmer and Johnnie Cochran, and is even called a "d--k" by Jesus himself. "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" is ultimately a frightening ode to dream sequences of musicals past, but with the added twist of being "à la Metallica".
9. "Transylvania Mania" - Young Frankenstein
Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, based on the 1974 comedy film of the same name, is essentially a parody of the horror film genre; especially the 1931 Universal Pictures adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. In "Transylvania Mania", the doctor needs a distraction, so Igor introduces us to the latest dance craze called - you guessed it - the "Transylvania Mania". This endearing showtune will have you tapping your toes at the very least. But trust us, it's even more fun to dance to this swingy bop! "Just accept it, don't refrain-ia!"
10. "Confrontation" - Jekyll & Hyde
Jekyll & Hyde is another spooky musical based on the 1886 novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. The music by Frank Wildhorn is all very dramatic, high-stakes, and blood-curdling. We'd say the best Jekyll & Hyde song to play for Halloween is "Confrontation", in which Dr. Jekyll protests and condemns Hyde's evil deeds while the alter-ego slowly takes over Jekyll's body and mind. If you're going to play this song, we recommend you see it live or watch a video of it staged first. It's incredible to watch the performer of this song switch positions and expressions so quickly, as well as the fast lighting changes and musical twists.
11. "When You're An Addams" - The Addams Family
Beetlejuice isn't the only macabre musical to have graced Broadway. In 2010, The Addams Family opened in Times Square and ran until the end of 2011. "When You're An Addams" was the earwormy opening number, and if you're not planning to play the classic snappy Addams Family theme song at your Halloween party, this song is the next best thing. In this song, Gomez and Morticia present all the rules of being an Addams: including seeing the worlds in shades of grey, putting poison in your day, and a taste for death. Other songs from the show we recommend for Spooky Season are "Just Around the Corner", "Where Did We Go Wrong", and "Morticia".
12. "Dead Girl Walking" - Heathers
Ah, Heathers: the most popular musical that never had an official Broadway run. Based on the cult classic Winona Ryder movie of the same name, this show follows teen outcast Veronica Sawyer as she is taken in by the "demon queen" of Westerbug High, Heather Chandler. As things turn sour, Veronica must devise a plan to save her skin, and things end up being deadly. "Dead Girl Walking" comes after Veronica has just been excommunicated from her clique. She knows she will face ostracism or even physical violence once school starts on Monday. So with thirty hours left before her execution, she decides to do something that ultimately ends up saving her life...get freaky! "Dead Girl Walking" is an amusing, spine-tingling, and sexy romp that will make you want to sing along to every note Barrett Wilbert Weed belts. If not "Dead Girl Walking", another Heathers song we recommend for Halloween is "Candy Store". ('Cause y'know...can't have Halloween without candy!)
13. "No Good Deed" - Wicked
We can't make a list of Halloween Broadway tunes without throwing in a song sung by the Wicked Witch of the West! "No Good Deed" is a stirring ballad from Wicked - which is a story about everyone's favorite Wicked Witch (named Elphaba) and the Good Witch of the North (Glinda) before the events of L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz. In "No Good Deed", Elphaba tries to save her lover from peril before realizing it's too late and she'll have to embrace the "wicked" reputation Oz has pegged her with. Dark, desperate, and ultimately powerful by the end, "No Good Deed" is an emotional and satisfying bop that will bring out your inner witch.
14. "Ghosties and Ghoulies and Things That Go Bump in the Night" - Meet Me in St. Louis
When the classic 1944 MGM movie musical Meet Me in St. Louis was adapted for the stage in 1989, additional songs were added by composing team Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. They had already provided the songs for the original film, so it gave them leeway to craft a new number for an extended Halloween sequence. That number is “Ghosties and Ghoulies and Things That Go Bump in the Night”. It's a super cute showtune that finds the two youngest members of the Smith family preparing for trick-or-treating. However, they have some fear instilled in them by the maid Katie, who prays for their safety against the monsters lurking on their streets.
15. "Killing Spree" - American Psycho
Believe it or not, American Psycho was made into a musical and ran on Broadway back in 2016. It was praised for its eerie rock and electronic score. "Killing Spree" is essentially a montage of our serial killer protagonist, Patrick Bateman, as he murders a string of New York City residents. Not only is the song notable for the way it shows Bateman killing his victims and getting away with it, but its also a song that you could groove to if you wanted to. Like seriously...this song is weirdly club-worthy? Maybe that's what adds to its creepy factor. This Halloween, we hope you dance up a storm like Patrick does in this song.
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Article Image: Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett pose in a promo photo from a 2018 production of "Sweeney Todd", Seymour holds his plant, Audrey II, in a production of "Little Shop of Horrors". (Anthonymtringali [CC BY 4.0] and Otterbein University Theatre & Dance [CC BY 2.0] via WikiMedia Commons.)