Terrence Mann as Javert
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
Terrence Mann as Javert
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
While waiting at the supermarket check-out counter, I saw an intriguing cover story in a magazine with the unlikely name of Mental Floss. It listed "The 20 Most Annoying People in History." Among them were Aaron Burr, Pete Best, Geraldo Rivera, Olive Oyl, Leona Helmsley, and Mike Tyson, leading up to the writers' Number One choice: Nostradamus, that purveyor of doom and gloom.

Needless to say, I began thinking about which individuals could be considered the 20 Most Annoying Characters in Musical Theater. Here's my list in reverse order:

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20. Chairy Barnum (Barnum): Why do charismatic men so often marry women with no souls?

19. Benjamin Stone (Follies): He's got a trophy wife, a house, a flat, Braques, Chagalls and all that, stocks, shelves of the world's best books, and someone at the reunion wants his autograph. Why can't he be happy?

18. Eulalie McKechnie Shinn (The Music Man): She was especially annoying in the sharp way that Ruth Williamson played her under Susan Stroman's direction in the 2001 revival. What a bitch!

17. Galinda (Wicked): Not Glinda, mind you; she straightened out. I'm talkin' Galinda here.

16. Patty (Grease): She loves the first day of school, she says "Toodles " when she's excited and takes care to bring up the fact that she's been nominated for student council vice-president -- just in case no one else does.

15. Hines (The Pajama Game): Not only is he always nagging the Sleep-Tite ladies to work harder -- and they work hard enough! -- but he also drives Gladys crazy with his maniacal jealousy. Think of the strife we'd save if he weren't around.

14. Sister Berthe (The Sound of Music): Oh, for God's sake! So Maria climbs a tree, scrapes her knee, her dress has got a tear -- and, underneath her wimple, she has curlers in her hair. She's just a kid. Lighten up!

13. Yente (Fiddler on the Roof): Don't you hate people who just drop in without notice and never mind their own business?

12. Mex Mencken (It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman): The man who has everything in place to annoy you. Superman would be a much better show if the authors had said "So long, big guy" to this clown.

11. Anne Egerman (A Little Night Music): Oh, come on, honey. You married the guy; give it up! What makes it worse is your saying "I want to" but not following through.

10. Gaston (Beauty and the Beast): Bad as this blowhard is, I'm surprised that lyricist Howard Ashman didn't take the opportunity to make him even more annoying in one specific line -- when Gaston is in the midst of a crowd and says, "Please let me through." Would this egomaniac actually say "Please?" Wouldn't he instead say, "Hey, let me through?"

9. Maximilian (Candide): Yes, it is a pimple. Get over it.

8. Thurio (Two Gentlemen of Verona): Even when he isn't played as a castrato, as he wasn't this summer at the Delacorte, you don't want to see this simp wind up with Sylvia.

7. Bud Frump (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying): He sets up Finch to fail with the Treasure Hunt quiz, and he's always calling his mother when he can't get his way. No wonder that J.B. Biggley and Hedy LaRue are afraid the kid could really put them through hell -- that he could even name the hotel.

6. Margaret White (Carrie): The kids in school used to call Carrie "Scary White," but her mom is the really scary member of the White family.

5. Captain Hook (Peter Pan): Will you just go away and let those boys play and enjoy themselves? Pick on someone your own size!

4. Sheridan Whiteside (Sherry ): When I brought up this candidate to my buddy Ken Bloom, he said, "Oh, no. He's lovable." Yeah, if you're in the audience. But if you're in Messalia, Ohio and stuck in that house with him -- or if you're the doctor he's blithely lying to, or the secretary he's trying to dupe, or the parents he's sabotaging -- he's hardly lovable.

3. Winston (In My Life): I have this image of Max Bialystock deciding to do a revival of Funny Boy, showing up at In My Life, taking one look at Winston, then jumping up and yelling, "That's our Hamlet!"

2. Vera (In My Life): I won't tell you the name of the American Idol-ish kid who's playing this role in the new bomb at the Music Box. I believe in maintaining the same standard that the media has always employed: When a juvenile commits a crime, the kid's name isn't released to the public.

1. Javert (Les Misérables): Don't you hate guys who take their work much too seriously? Javvie, will you just give Valjean a break? Don't you know deep in your heart that he's straightened out? The quality of mercy is not strained.

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[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at pfilichia@theatermania.com]