Comscore
Advertisement

New Musical Ideas for dissertation project...

faustgetz
Swing
joined:8/18/14
Hi,
I am about to start on a new musical for a dissertation project and was wondering if I could have some assistance! I would love to adapt a book/play that is quite haunting/scary as a horror/thriller or dark comedy musical. Since seeing the play 'the Woman in Black' on stage I have always wanted to re create something that chilling in musical form! Any suggestions would be much appreciated! Thanks for your help!
icecreambenjamin Profile Photo
icecreambenjamin
Featured Actor
joined:6/7/14
I'm not sure that it's exactly "chilling" but A Series of Unfortunate Events would make a terrific black comedy.
ggersten
Broadway Legend
joined:5/11/06
If you are not planning on having a production, then there are lots of things you may be able to use without the rights to the material. But, otherwise, won't you be limited to public domain stories? In which case, what about abut the life of Edgar Allan Poe - musicalizing the stories. You could do different styles for the biography sections - as well as each story having a different "feel".
I think HG Wells is in the public domain - and The Invisible Man or The Time Machine can be frightening - although singing Morlocks may be a bit much.
StephieElise
Chorus Member
joined:11/12/12
As ggersten said, if actually want it to be performed it would be much easier to use material in the public domain, otherwise you'd have to secure the rights. That's not impossible (e.g. Matilda is still under copyright), but it is likely to be a pain and mightn't be something you want to get involved in for a dissertation project. To make things more confusing, the US offers much longer protection under its copyright laws so there are some things that you could perform in other countries, but not the US (e.g. Sylvia Plath's works). The charts at the top of this page can help you to work out whether a piece you're interested in is still under copyright in the US or not: http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm

Here are a few novels that are definitely not under copyright:
- The Picture of Dorian Gray (although I know there have been a few musicals of it)
- Frankenstein (but I could see that going very badly)
- Dracula (ditto)
- The Hound of the Baskervilles
- Wuthering Heights
- The Turn of the Screw

Another suggestion would be to consider a real life crime as the basis for your musical. Look up The Hatpin if you want to see how that can work well.
henrikegerman Profile Photo
henrikegerman
Broadway Legend
joined:4/29/05
For gothic, take a look at E.F. Benson's very grand and very homoerotic "Colin".
SnoopyQc Profile Photo
SnoopyQc
Swing
joined:5/23/14
In french litterature, there is many fantastic/horror works that you can easily use (public domain). So you can choose a piece that is less familiar (to english people) than Poe's work.

Guy de Maupassant wrote many fantastic short stories (The Horla, The Hand, The Madwoman, The Blind Man, At Sea, Apparition, The Wolf, Terror, The Diary of a Madman, On the River, The Head of Hair, Was he Mad?, The Dead Girl, Mademoiselle Cocotte, The Drowned Man, Who Knows?, etc.)

Alexandre Dumas (the autor of The three musketeers) wrote the book "Les Mille et Un Fantômes" (A Thousand And One Ghosts).
Maybe I do not speak English as well as you, but I can perfectly pronounce the names of all characters of Les Misérables. For those who cannot help themselves, feel free to PM me my grammar mistakes. I really want to improve my english writing.
ggersten
Broadway Legend
joined:5/11/06
For real life crime: this is a particularly gruesome story of murders in a town known for grave robbing. The Burke and Hare murders. There is quite the colorful cast of characters besides Burke and Hare themselves. You have the doctors who are paying for bodies without question - I think there is a crime boss involved as well. You have the "legitimate" grave robbers - people whose job was to sit on a grave all night to protect against grave robbing ("the graveyard shift" which of course could easily be a song title). The Pegg/Serkis film from 2010 is actually pretty funny and gruesome. I think there was an episode of Night Gallery inspired by the stories, where the last sequence is where the last body delivered to the Doctor is that of his fiancee whom the murderers have killed and brought to him.
Oh well, looks like there was a recent musical of some aspect of the story in 2012: http://www.theatre20.com/bloodless-the-trial-of-burke-and-hare-oct-2012.html and reviewed on this site: http://www.broadwayworld.com/toronto/article/BWW-Reviews-BLOODLESS-The-Trial-of-Burke-and-Hare-20121015#.U_IYMPldVOg Of course, there were two musical adaptations of The Wild Party produced in the same year, so don't let that stop you! Just don't track down the score of "Bloodless".


Burke and Hare Murders
Updated On: 8/18/14 at 11:12 AM
newintown Profile Photo
newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
Has there ever been a truly successful "scary" musical? Even Sweeney Todd is more over-the-top, Grand Guignol stuff, more startling than actually terrifying.

Think of all those vampire flops; Lestat, Dracula, Dance of the Vampires (which, admittedly, did not try to scare).

It may be that once characters begin singing and dancing, it's hard to seriously frighten your audience (except frightening them into thinking the show might never end).

The few successful "horror" musicals provide some laughs, or go all the way deep into Camp Country (Little Shop of Horrors, Silence (can we call it successful?), Rocky Horror Show, etc.).
themysteriousgrowl Profile Photo
themysteriousgrowl
Broadway Legend
joined:11/10/10

It probably depends on an individual's threshold.

I've never been legitimately frightened by a musical... but then only a handful of horror movies have legitimately frightened me. I've seen a few plays that, to me, were successfully atmospheric/creepy, but none have ever made me keep one eye open when I go to sleep that night.

Maybe SWEENEY has had that effect on some people. I've never heard anyone report that feeling, though.
CHURCH DOOR TOUCAN GAY MARKETING PUPPIES MUSICAL THEATER STAPLES PERIOD CUM OIL
Kad Profile Photo
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
I'm not entirely convinced musical theatre can "frighten"- based on material, at least. Staging, design, and performance could, in theory, but even then those elements may slide into camp.

I think there's potential for musical theatre to disturb, which the most effective pieces of horror do (rather than getting you to jump, which is super easy).
faustgetz
Swing
joined:8/18/14
Thanks for all the advice and suggestions! I agree with the point that when characters start singing and dancing that it is hard to be frightening/scary... Although I think that's why I have chosen this genre... for the challenge!!
henrikegerman Profile Photo
henrikegerman
Broadway Legend
joined:4/29/05
"Has there ever been a truly successful "scary" musical? Even Sweeney Todd is more over-the-top, Grand Guignol stuff, more startling than actually terrifying."

If you don't count Phantom, you might consider Britten's The Turn of the Screw.
I know it's an opera, but...
dreaming Profile Photo
dreaming
Broadway Legend
joined:4/24/09
How about Jack the Ripper? It's a true story (which I happen to be partial to and feel might lend itself to a musical) and you can read John Douglas' "The Crimes That Still Haunt Us" to get an idea of what someone thinks happened (and there are lots of other great sources).
Mister Matt Profile Photo
Mister Matt
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/03
Though it was a film, the original House on Haunted Hill (1959) has many wonderful possibilities.
"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
newintown Profile Photo
newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
henrik, I don't think of Phantom as remotely frightening; I love Britten's Turn of the Screw, but I also don't find it scary, so much as eerie and moody (much like parts of his Death in Venice.

I wonder if we're more frightened (in dramatic arts) by images and situations, rather than by text/lyrics? I'm thinking of some of the more popular horror films of the last 40 years or so, like Poltergeist, Halloween, Alien, 21 Days Later, The Blair Witch Project, the Paranormal Activity series. I think horror like that would be difficult to recreate on stage, even more so if there's singing.
NewSynchopation
Stand-by
joined:12/31/13
I really think that the most scary musicals and plays are the ones that build crazy suspense like CABARET, TWO BOYS, or AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. In fact, the scariest play I've ever seen was BLOOD PLAY at Under the Radar, which was not horror, but still genuinely terrifying, unless you count being scared of how mutilated CINDERELLA on Broadway was.

Advertisement
 
Advertisement Advertisement Advertisement
Advertisement