The 7 Baddest Broadway Villains
Broadway musicals tend to cast a sympathetic light on their subjects, even the baddies. Songs help us understand their motivations, and few of those are born out of pure malice — but there are exceptions. Here are seven bad-to-the-bone villains from Broadway musicals. This is the kind of evil that will have you humming all the way home.
1. Scar in The Lion King
It's hard to think of a worse crime than murdering your brother to steal his throne, but that's exactly what Scar does in The Lion King. Steeped in resentment and unearned privilege, Scar is the most villainous characters on this list (he's also the only entry from the wonderful world of Disney, where villains tend to be less ambiguous). On top of his purr of a British accent and languid demeanor, Scar gets a great rumba song to convey his evilness — what's not to love?
2. Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors
It's a cliché to refer to a villain as "inhuman," but that's literally true in the case of this carnivorous plant hell-bent on world domination. Audrey II is the honeyed voice of the devil in this Faustian tale about a humble florist who is offered fame, wealth, and the girl of his dreams in return for a steady stream of blood. Audrey II is the baddest villain in Little Shop, but an honorable mention goes to Orin Scrivello, DDS — a sadistic dentist with a killer song.
3. Jud Fry in Oklahoma!
Jud Fry is a creepy guy who lives in a shed and obsesses over Laurey, the female protagonist, even though she is totally not interested. He's a clear product of "rape culture", and clearly a bad guy, right? Well, that's not so clear in the Tony-winning Broadway revival of ''Oklahoma!, which manages to cast Jud in a more sympathetic light without dispelling any of what makes him a disturbing character. It's a testament to both the strength of Oscar Hammerstein's book, and the profound ability of the Broadway musical to help us see the world from a different perspective.
4. Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart in Chicago
"But they're the protagonists," I hear you saying. Yes, and that's what makes John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Bob Fosse's musical about two murderers who gain national acclaim so unforgettably disturbing. With their amoral ambition and utter shamelessness, Velma and Roxie hold up a mirror to the national character and force us to take a good, long look. They are villains who leave the audience roaring for more by the end. Darkly brilliant, Chicago is a musical that has only appreciated in value in the age of reality TV.
5. Javert in Les Misérables
Few characters are scarier than the villain who thinks he is the hero. That is the case for Inspector Javert, the pitiless cop who vows not to rest until he sees our fugitive hero, Jean Valjean, safely behind bars. Is there no room for redemption in his book — even for himself? The Terminator in a frock coat, Javert makes this list through sheer tenacity.
6. Mr. Applegate in Damn Yankees
Book writers George Abbott and Douglass Wallop left no room for interpretation in this 1955 musical about the Washington Senators, a hapless baseball team, taking on the mighty New York Yankees: Mr. Applegate is the actual devil, come to earth to offer aging sports fan Joe Boyd a chance to become super slugger Joe Hardy. The only catch? Should he complete the Senators' last game, he can never go back to his old life or his old wife. Satan as a traveling salesman, Applegate comes complete with the sexiest sidekick ever to tread the boards on Broadway: Lola.
7. Half the characters in Sweeney Todd
Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler imagined this 1979 Tony winner as a musical penny dreadful; and truly, their vision of Victorian London is inhabited by some dreadful people: There's the cruel and hypocritical Judge Turpin, who uses his position of privilege to creep on his young ward. His henchman, Beadle Bamford, assists. Then there's Mrs. Lovett, the Fleet Street entrepreneur who concocts the brilliant idea to cook human flesh into her meat pies. And, of course, there's our title character, who procures the raw material for Lovett's pies through a series of grisly murders. If it weren't for the comically innocent young lovers at the center of the story (and Sondheim's beautiful, hilarious music), this show would be pure darkness.