Broadway's 5 Silliest Character Names
Silly names are serious business in the musical theater.
What's in a name? Potentially a lot, when you're a character in a Broadway musical. Names are an audience's first impression, and they sometimes give actors a hint about motivation. Lyricists love characters with names that rhyme with a lot of things (just listen to Sondheim go to town with "Bobby" and "Paul" in Company). But some character names are just plain silly, earning guffaws the first time you hear them. Here are five that immediately come to mind:
1. Agatha Hannigan – Annie
Agatha Hannigan is the bitter alcoholic who runs the orphanage where we first meet Annie, the little orphan whose sunny optimism is rewarded when a millionaire named "Warbucks" adopts her. Naturally, Miss Hannigan hates kids. Say her full name too fast and you'll inevitably land on the word "hag." It's an on-the-nose way to let us know she's a baddie, but it is at least a subtler moniker than her forerunner in Harold Gray's comic strip, "Miss Asthma."
2. Brooke Lohst – Be More Chill
"How do I subtly indicate a motivating trait of this character? Oh, I know…I'll add an 'h' to the word lost." In fairness, "Lohst" is the surname of a minor character named "Katrina" in Ned Vizzini's 2004 novel, consolidated into the character of Brooke for Joe Iconis and Joe Tracz's popular musical. As her name suggests, Brooke is a little lost: She's a popular girl with a dysfunctional relationship with her best friend. Could the name be a self-fulfilling prophecy?
3. Sky Masterson – Guys and Dolls
Here's another example of a character signaling his traits with his name, but this cool gambler with a soft spot for cute missionaries is doing it through purposeful reinvention. As Damon Runyon informs us in his short story, "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" (which serves as the basis of this musical), Sky (born "Obadiah") is a Colorado transplant to the big city. Runyon created Sky in tribute to gambler and part-time lawman Bat Masterson — which is also a fairly silly name, although it's at least a logical truncation of his given name, "Bartholomew." But in the musical theater, the sky's the limit when it comes to silly names.
4. Victoria the White Cat – Cats
Silliness is relative, and in a show with exotic Jellicle names like Rumpleteaser and Bombalurina, a name like "Victoria" stands out for its banality. It's as if unwitting "book writer" T.S. Eliot (who was long dead by the time the musical was conceived) ran out of ideas, saw the old queen on a postage stamp, and called it a day. Or at least it would seem that way if Eliot had anything to do with her: Victoria does not appear in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, Eliot's book of poems on which Cats is based. She is a dance role created entirely for the stage. One would think that the creators of Cats would have taken a stab at their own Jellicle name, and their refusal do so reveals a lot about this overrated musical.
5. Benjamin Coffin III – Rent
Benjamin Coffin III is a former bohemian turned real estate sellout, and he is the primary antagonist in Rent, Jonathan Larson's musical about a bunch of squatters inhabiting an imaginary version of New York's East Village. His surname portends death, and his numeral suffix connotes generational wealth. This name is already over-the-top, so why stop at Benjamin? Richard, with its wealth of diminutives like "Rich" and "Dick," would have been an even stronger choice. When it comes to silly Broadway names, you might as well go for it – no day but today!