Favorite Okay-Or-Not-So-Good Musical

edited September 2012 in Theater
Just a general, not-Howard-specific discussion. What is a musical (original film, film adaptation, theater, or other) that you love, but isn't really the best musical in the world.

I'm currently obsessed with "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog", and I think it's a distant relative of "Little Shop." They both deal with kind-of dark ideas with comedy, the main character in both is doing evil things to get the girl he's pinning for, and both have dark, kind of depressing ending. Now, it's not on the same level as Little Shop, and it isn't probably a great musical, but Little Shop (and other musicals) were an investment, time and money wise, that the creative team were putting in, and "Dr. Horrible" was pretty much just Joss Whedon calling up some friends and saying "Hey, you know would be fun?"

EDIT: I also have to give props for "Commentary! The Musical". It's just so wonderfully meta.

So, what are your favorite, "so-so" musicals?


  • I don't think I'm a fit judge when it comes to what's good or not in terms of musicals but I absolutely LOVE Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog! It's incredibly fun, the songs are catchy and I love that they made it just to make a point during the Writer's Strike that year.

    I also love "Repo! The Genetic Opera", which was pretty much the first thing I thought of when I saw the title. People seem to either love it or hate it, though, and I can understand why. It's not very good per say, but it's fun and sort of gory and I can appreciate that.
  • edited September 2012
    I've been really into Dr. Horrible, Commentary, and Repo at various points. Never as much as LSOH, though!

    I've also got to throw my hat into the ring with Rocky Horror, Reefer Madness, the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and the South Park movie. I love LSOH above all of them, but variety is necessary for life! :)

    EDIT: I would add Les Miserables, but I have a feeling I'd get dogpiled for putting it in the "Okay-Or-Not-So-Good" category. :(
  • There are shows out there with GREAT(!!!) scores that just don't work onstage, and some of them are by the best writers. Jerry Herman's MACK & MABEL comes to mind, and so does Bernstein's CANDIDE. (They've tried to fix them, yes, but they still work best on the cast recording.) The list goes ON and on...
  • @Omega I feel like it's okay if you put Les Mis in the "Okay-Or-Not-So-Good" category. Remember, it wasn't a critical success when it came out. :)

    I feel like I should also add Wizard of Oz to this list. It's a lovely film, but just not good as a musical. There's just to many things missing, and it, like a lot of other musical films *cough*Aladdin*cough*, is just too top-heavy. (Also, there's something a bit off if this, a musical, is considered the most watched film of all time, and "The Sound of Music" is considered the most watched musical film of all time.) I will give Webber and Rice credit though. They did a fine job of going in and adding the elements that needed to be added. Though, I will never forgive them for taking out "The Jitterbug."
  • I can't believe I forgot about Rocky Horror when I wrote my post! Rocky Horror is pretty fantastic when it comes down to fun more than great music.

    I like Les Mis too, though I wasn't sure if it would fit either. I'm curious about the upcoming movie version of that.
  • edited October 2012
    I just discovered "Love Never Dies", and I feel like it belongs here. It isn't terrible, but it's not super great either. The songs are lovely ("Beauty Underneath" is just a song full of awesomeness), but compared to the masterpiece that is "Phantom of the Opera", there's just something that's missing that propels it to the level of "excellent".

    Although, "Little Shop" feels like a musical a forth grader wrote for a school project compared to "Phantom", so the scale isn't exactly balanced here.
  • Uh, that's probably not the best thing to say, Justin. And I personally hold the opposite opinion.
  • edited October 2012
    Though I don't agree, I understand*. And thinking about it, I probably jumped the gun. I feel like it'll take me a few viewings for me to truly appreciate it as it's own thing.

    *My introduction to Phantom was the 25th anniversary performance, the only good recording of the show.
  • I was specifically referring to your second paragraph, by the way.
  • While I don't think Little Shop is the most artistically daring musical ever written, I do think that it is a small masterpiece in its own right. It manages to be satirical and fun, without being condescendingly self-referential (like Urinetown for instance). Even though its topic could be laughably campy, Little Shop is about as honest and sincere as a show can be. And despite having tons of humor, there is also legitimate tragedy and suspense. To me, it comes pretty close to being a perfectly written intimate musical comedy.

    I'm sure any fourth grader could imagine the possibilities of a man-eating plant. But that's what makes Howard's accomplishment so incredible; that he was able to take such a bizarre, random idea and turn it into a convincingly dramatic musical. I don't think anyone else could have pulled it off quite like Howard, who I really think is a storytelling genius.

    *And not to strike up a debate here, but I don't think Phantom is particularly special. It's hard not to like Phantom, but I have to admit that the lyrics, while romantic, are very vague and cliched and neither Christine nor Raoul can be said to be really strong characters. I'm a big Stephen Sondheim fan, so go figure.
  • It's was a hyperbole, my dear friends. I was not serious. :)
  • Thanks for clearing that up. I think you just eased the minds of everyone who reads this blog.
  • edited October 2012
    Personally, I think Reefer Madness is almost as good as Little Shop. I almost always end up singing the Brownie Song whenever I bake brownies (reefer free, of course. I don't do drugs).

    I also love the holy grail of Broadway flops, Carrie: The Musical. And Eve Was Weak is an amazing song. Evening Prayers, the Destruction, and I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance are also wonderful tunes that should be standards. Seriously, go look up those songs.

    And Eve Was Weak from 1988:
  • I have a soft spot for the silliness of Shrek: The Musical. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but I do love it! And of course, I'm crazy about Dr. Horrible too :)
  • @TeenageFan If Dreamworks ever releases that performance they filmed, I'd watch the hell out of it. I haven't seen or heard anything from it yet (except their Tony performance), but I know it's something I'd like.

    Also, how could I forget Young Frankenstien?! It's one of those musicals that doesn't totally gel together and it's a bit of a stretch, but the score is just so wonderful and it's just so fun.
  • RE: The musical of CARRIE--

    Buckley sings the HELL out of those songs, but the new CD of the recent "revisal" with Marin Mazzie is great. I'm a Marin fanatic-- the most talented and underrated singing actress in New York.
  • I've got the Premiere Cast recording on Spotify, and I love it. I only wish that they hadn't taken the bits and pieces of And Eve was Weak out of The Destruction.

  • My post in the other "Favorite" thread reminded me of the film version of "Phantom of the Opera." It isn't terrible, but it isn't excellent either; it's just okay. It just had so much potential and the casting didn't exactly click just right.
  • John, I totally agree with you about Marin Mazzie. What a voice and what an actress...
  • Her husband's no slouch either. They, meaning every songwriter and bookwriter working today, should be writing a show a season for them.

    TeenageFan, Shrek is an adorable show. I agree with you on that. The writers did a nice job with that one. I think Tesori is an underrated talent. Caroline, or Change is definitely hard to grasp at first, but it's wonderful.
  • Rocky Horror

    The music is fantastic and the jokes are funny, but the story is needlessly complex. If it's about anything, it's about Richard O'Brien's pessimistic view on all types of sexual relations.
  • My problem with RH is the second act. That said, I bless the film for the midnight sing along screenings that, back in the day, were almost spontaneous in their fun and for Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick in their underwear.
  • "*And not to strike up a debate here, but I don't think Phantom is particularly special. It's hard not to like Phantom, but I have to admit that the lyrics, while romantic, are very vague and cliched and neither Christine nor Raoul can be said to be really strong characters. I'm a big Stephen Sondheim fan, so go figure"

    You and me both, Ryan! People claim to be "moved" by PHANTOM, but I really find it to be hollow emotionally, mostly for the Hallmark Card-lyrics, and lack of character development. Give me MOST HAPPY FELLA or SUNDAY IN THE PARK... any day for real tears! (Or even ANNIE!) It is gorgeously staged by Hal Prince, but the rest of the show leaves me cold.

    Perhaps I should keep my mouth shut, since I have a slight connection to the Prince Office, but I'm not criticizing Hal AT ALL. His works MAKES the show...for me.
  • For me, I have a bit of a guilty pleasure toward "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." I find it an okay musical for a couple of reasons (and we're all free to disagree here on any of my points):

    1. Andrew Lloyd Weber pastiches the hell out of this musical. He goes from ethereal to western to pop to quasi French and even quasi Jamaican. Call me picky or callous, but in my experience of watching musicals, making the music pastiche should help to enhance the important plot point or the moment the character is having. Some of his selections feels like Weber was just mixing different musical styles in there just so he could say that he did (Then again, "Dreamcoat" was one of his first musicals, so he was most likely being the greenhorn to musical creation that he was at the time)

    2. "Any Dream Will Do." I have analyzed the lyrics (which are still confusing to me, btw) and its purpose in the beginning of the musical, and yet no matter how wonderful it sounds, it just doesn't fit in the beginning between "Some Folks Dream" and "Jacob and Sons". It could've been removed and the story would've began much more smoothly, and no one would've known the difference.

    More to come.
  • @Mikhail Well, what would you say about the songs that John Bucchino wrote for the DreamWorks animated feature "Joseph: King of Dreams"?
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