Halloween is rapidly approaching, and we've come to notice that Broadway is having its spookiest autumn ever, with several shows where ghosts — real or imagined — make a prominent appearance. So when you're trying to figure out how to spend October 31 (that is, if you don't want to go to a party), maybe you'll want to see one of these five shows for a spooky good time.
Perhaps the granddaddy of spooky Broadway shows is Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical The Phantom of the Opera. After all, the erstwhile hero of the piece is a ghostly presence hellbent on revenge, which he exacts in a series of seriously scary ways, among them, fireballs, hangings, and a really horrifying skeleton costume during "Masquerade." But most unsettling of all is the show's signature stunt, when the Phantom magically causes the Majestic Theatre's beautiful chandelier to come crashing to the stage floor. It's a spook-tastic effect that still provokes shivers nearly three decades after it opened.
2. Hand to God
With Hand to God, playwright Robert Askins' achievement is two-fold. In one case, he's created a thought-provoking dark comedy about the nature of faith and religion in America. In the other, he's crafted one of Broadway's rare horror comedies, one that finds a young adult's hand puppet get possessed by the devil and attacking people. The blood flows like it would in a slasher flick, and we can't stop laughing all the while. But we'll never look at puppets the same way ever again.
"Creepy as [bleep]" is the only way to describe Evan Cabnet's production of Émile Zola's legendary tale of lust, murder, and psychological torture. Cabnet and his stars — Keira Knightley, Matt Ryan, Gabriel Ebert, and Judith Light — go for the jugular, leaving the audience on the edge of their seats. But the atmosphere cooked up by the creative team — the beautiful looming sets by Beowulf Borritt, the constricting costumes by Jane Greenwood, the noir-style lighting by Keith Parham, and Josh Schmidt's menacing sound design — will leave viewers shocked and terrified.
The phrase "I'm your number one fan" takes on a bone-chilling meaning in William Goldman's stage adaptation of Stephen King's classic novel about famed novelist Paul Sheldon kidnapped by crazed admirer Annie Wilkes. James Caan and Kathy Bates unforgettably played the roles on-screen, and now Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf are taking the reins on Broadway. Few actors do "unhinged" better than Metcalf (in fact, her nickname when she performed with Chicago's Steppenwolf was "Crazy Pants"), and we know we won't be able to shake her Annie from our minds.
5. Old Times
Harold Pinter's three-character play, starring Clive Owen, Eve Best, and Kelly Reilly at the American Airlines Theatre, might be a ghost story. Or, it might not be a ghost story. It's all up to how you interpret the 65-minute play, which finds a husband-and-wife pair visited by a mysterious woman from both of their pasts. Are they all dead? Are only some of them dead? Are they just trying to get lucky? Douglas Hodge's production will leave you haunted long after you leave the theater.
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