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Broadway’s Most Sinister Villains

Category Broadway

|by Mark Robinson |


The best baddies in showbiz, just in time for Halloween

We all love to hate a villain, and Broadway musicals occasionally have a character that is so deplorable that we revel in their dastardly deeds and inevitable comeuppance. With several current Broadway musicals showcasing villains classic (King Kong), seductive (Chicago) and adolescent (Mean Girls) alike, it’s a good time to be bad on Broadway. Here are a few of the all-purpose baddies who have antagonized and terrorized the heroes of Broadway musicals.

Iago (Don Darryl Rivera) and Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) in ‘Aladdin’ (Photo: Deen Van Meer)

Iago (Don Darryl Rivera) and Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) in ‘Aladdin’ (Photo: Deen Van Meer)

Little Shop of Horrors
Orin Scrivello

Little Shop of Horrors plays on everyone’s fear of root canals and smoking drills, and the sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello is the embodiment of those inherent nightmares. His big number “Be a Dentist” tells us all about how his childhood abuse of animals and inflicting pain on others led to his mother suggesting that he try a career in dentistry. Try listening to the song without holding your jaw and wincing. It is almost impossible. Add to this that he is frightfully abusive to the good-hearted Audrey, his fiancé, and Scrivello is an easy character to despise.

Oklahoma!
Jud Fry

The menacing Jud Fry of Oklahoma! is not a man to be trifled with. He has an obsession with the farmgirl Laurey, and his jealousy over her affections toward the cowboy Curly leads him to attempt murder. His song “Lonely Room” reveals a deeply disturbed man who has little to lose, and who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Annie
Miss Hannigan

Just as there are serious villains in musical theatre, there are comedic ones, and few are as funny or as memorable as Miss Hannigan from Annie. She runs an orphanage, but she despises the kids in her charge as she espouses in the musical diatribe “Little Girls.” She’s not above bribery, extortion or kidnapping, not to mention the way she works the orphans.

Aladdin
Jafar

Power-hungry and wielding sinister magic, the royal vizier of Agrabah is the arch nemesis of the “diamond in the rough” Aladdin who will thwart his plans to someday be sultan. Aided by his bungling sidekick Iago, Jafar is one of Disney’s darkest villains. He tries to usurp the throne by forcing a marriage between himself and the Princess Jasmine, imprisons Aladdin to keep him from coming to the rescue, and maniacally vies for control of the genie of the lamp who will grant him unspeakable abilities.

Oliver!
Bill Sykes

As his song “My Name” portends, just the mention of Bill Sykes inspires fear and foreboding in the denizens of Dickensian London. Quick to violence, mysterious in his silence, and always willing to profit from the exploitation of children, he is a force to be reckoned with. Bill Sykes murders his beloved Nancy when she recues the musical’s orphaned title character from his clutches and delivers Oliver to safety.

The Little Mermaid
Ursula

Who, in exchange for the benefits of her magic, would hold a heartsick mermaid searching for her land-bound love to a contract that is most certainly going to end in her imprisonment? Why, Ursula the Sea Witch from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, of course!  Ursula is a crafty villain, fixated on ruling the sea and when she sees the opportunity to hold Poseidon’s beloved daughter Ariel for ransom, she does just that. At first she paints herself as a charitable friend, but as her song “Poor Unfortunate Souls” unfolds, we soon learn that there are prices to be paid for having our dreams come true.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Judge Turpin

Some might argue that the butchering barber of this show’s title and his pie-making accomplice Mrs. Lovett are Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’s villains. It is true that neither of them are particularly kind people. It is, however, Judge Turpin, the lecherous “vulture of the law,” who is the true villain of the piece. In an attempt to take advantage of Sweeney’s wife, and then his daughter, Turpin sends the barber (once known as Benjamin Barker) to prison on a trumped-up charge. His revolting acts of lust and coveting stand in stark contrast with his outwardly pious persona. When Barker returns, he takes on the new identity of “Sweeney Todd” and exacts his revenge on the man who took his life and loves away from him.

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.

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