Whether it’s because these musicals are weird, hilarious, or irrelevant, they’ve gained a small but passionate following among fans that is keeping them alive much longer than anyone probably thought they would be. Here are 5 musicals with cult followings.
1. Bat Boy
They say that truth is stranger than fiction, and Bat Boy proves it. Not because there really was a half bat half boy found in a West Virginia cave, but because there was a newspaper that pretended there was. While the Weekly World News was known for its outrageous stories and crazy covers, their story about a batboy was wild enough to inspire this strange cult hit musical.
Bat Boy begins when three spelunking teenagers find a creature that is part bat, part boy, and a complete mystery to the small town of Hope Falls. The bat boy is taken in by a kind woman named Meredith and her veterinarian husband and he learns speech and human etiquette. The rural small-town setting of this musical creates themes of religion, acceptance, and scapegoating and the writers pull no punches when it comes to twists in the plot. If you’re looking for an unusual musical that has no fear of going too far and has a varied score, then this cult classic will delight you.
2. Side Show
Bat Boy may have been based on a real fictional story, but Side Show is based on two real actresses who dealt with the exact same problem as the two main characters in this cult musical. Among a set of performers in a freak show, Violet and Daisy stand out not because they are bearded ladies or lizard women but because they’re conjoined at the hip.
Despite their career as entertainers, Daisy and Violet don’t want the same things. While Daisy wants to ride their act to worldwide fame and acclaim, Violet doesn’t want a life in the spotlight and instead wants a quiet life and a family. For an average set of sisters this would be no problem, but the fact that these sisters literally are joined at the hip and the influence of other characters looking to take advantage of their abnormality creates an unusual but great conflict. Don’t let the unusual plot distract you, this musical combines great songs with a unique plot to make a great cult musical.
If you know the Carrie story, then you probably know it from the Stephen King novel, the film adaptation, and the musical adaptation that is one of Broadway’s most infamous bombs. No matter what you know it for, chances are it’s not as a successful musical. However, several years after its abysmal premiere in 1988 Carrie the musical has gained a cult following that is keeping it alive today.
Carrie is a well-known story about a teenage girl who discovers she has supernatural powers, but thanks to uninspired music and a broken story this musical crashed when it premiered. However, some revisions and an interest in the show led to an off-Broadway revival in 2012 and the show has shown in London and Los Angeles since.
You would think that a story about global politics, a love triangle, and two nations in a cold war would be the setting of a musical based on spies, but Chess is all about exactly what the name implies. You probably know about the cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States and have even seen stories about it brought to the screen and stage, but unless you’re a chess aficionado you’ve probably never seen it like this.
Chess is all centered around a chess tournament taking place in Italy. There’s the American and Russian champions who are pitted against each other with the weight of their countries on their shoulders, but things get a little more interesting when the American’s lover, and the second-best player for the Americans, falls in love with the Russian. A musical about a chess tournament may sound like a good time to take a nap, but with the soundtrack by two members of ABBA and the high cold war tensions this musical has risen to cult status.
5. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Like the rest of the musicals on this list, Hedwig take a unique story and combines it with great music and high tension to reach cult status. In this case, that means a rock musical with a fourth wall breaking main character who is on a quest to reconnect with the man who most recently left her broken.
Hedwig tells the audience the story of how she went from being a man named Hansel in East Germany to a single woman in Kansas with a band following around a mega-group that she’s responsible for but is getting no credit for. While there are hilarious moments in this musical, Hedwig’s story is emotional and is about much more than a band playing TGI Friday’s all over the country.
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