Is the West End getting more outrageous? With the recent opening (and closure) of the utterly ridiculous I Can’t Sing: The X Factor Musical, in which a man wore a pair of electronic trousers that powered an iron lung and Simon Cowell was outed as an alien invader, I haven’t been able to help but notice that most other West End musicals have moments of pure madness too. Unlike I Can’t Sing!, which was straight out cray cray, many other shows appear to follow some kind of sensical narrative for 95% of the show but manage to crack out one truly insane scene. Below are my top 5 weird moments in musicals currently running on the West End…can you think of any more?
5 – The “this door secretly leads to the dungeon in which I keep my retarded brother” scene from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
It’s all going swimmingly for the scoundrels of the French Riveria, who have even teamed up to provide the ultimate tour de scam for the rich socialites of the region. That is until Oklahoman Heiress Jolene wants to marry ultimate con-artiste Lawrence Jamerson. Uh oh! An end to the dream? Not quite…enter his brother Rurprecht! (well actually it is his fellow conman, Freddy, in disguise…but still!) The next scene is conducted in a strange sex dungeon in which Freddy plays Ruprecht, a strange perverted fiend invented to scare Jolene away all in the timescale of a song and dance number. Up until this moment the show is pretty classy, but lyrics such as “Ruprecht’s all about Burmese belly-rubs, fresh-shaved testicles On christmas day…Ruprecht’s crazy ’bout taxidermy and KY Jelly on a rubber glove!” lower the tone somewhat.
Weird factor: 5. Whilst this scene does come somewhat out of the blue, you can’t put anything past those scoundrels! It also exudes a silliness that is reflected elsewhere in the book.
4 – The “I fell asleep and weird, florescent swimmers in gloves started dancing around me, thus summing up my inner wedding turmoil” moment in Mamma Mia!
As far as jukebox musicals go, Mamma Mia! has a pretty legitimate narrative amid the spontaneous outbursts of ABBA classics. Sophie lives with her mum Donna on a Greek Island and is preparing to marry some sea hunk named Sky. Daddy issues aside, it all seems to be going swimmingly until, uh oh, dream sequence of doom! Sophie “wakes up” with goggled, gloved, shower cap wearing ghouls taunting her whilst singing ABBA hit “under attack.” Riiiiight. As dream sequences go, this one is pretty strange with some highly questionable costume design.
Weird factor: 7. Where have these crazy sea zombies come from and why are they wearing floral shower caps? We will never know.
3 – The Curious Incident of the Cocaine sniffing Mexicans in “Hernando’s Hideaway” from The Pajama Game
The Pajama Game; a fun, frothy and charming 1950’s musical set in Iowa in a quaint pajama factory…yeah sure. But oh, wait, the seemingly preppy and perky factory workers like to party in a Spanish den of sin called Hernando’s Hideaway where men throw knives and Mexicans form coke snorting conga lines ?! I did NOT see that coming. Sadly, after a few high kicks and near death experiences, Hernando’s Hideaway is hidden once more and the cast head back to the perky picket line of the Sleep Tite factory like it was all just a strange, strange dream.
Weird factor: 7 …whaaaa?
2 – The “some headless mannequins have come to life, become giants and started dancing with us, but we are gonna act like it’s totally normal” scene.
Despite demonstrating the gritty reality of life in County Durham in 1985, Billy Elliot on occasion slips into absurdism. It is totally reasonable he might want to fly around a vision of his older self in a strange dreamlike sequence, it is also pretty legit that the miners may wish to mock Maggie Thatcher by turning her into an ubermarionette….but when the giant dancing mannequins start step ball changing, things just get a bit too strange. I’m all up for Billy and his cross dressing pal Michael expressing themselves (“Express Yourself”) but seriously, this sequence is like all my fears of being locked in a shopping centre realised on stage. Ahhh.
Weird factor: 8 …help! Why are there giant dancing faceless mannequins and what do they want with Billy?!
NB – I have done some research on the many worldwide productions of Billy Elliot and the mannequin’s seem to vary in severity in this scene. Please be informed, if you haven’t seen the London version, they are BIGGER and much more terrifying in the UK.
1 – The “Uh-oh, we all fell asleep and found ourselves amid a spooky mormon hell dream where both Hitler and Genghis Khan are present” scene from The Book of Mormon
Okay so this IS a touch different to misc creepy brothers, monstrous florescent swimmers in shower caps, unexplained coke snorting Mexicans and giant dancing mannequins in that the whole of The Book of Mormon is a bit ridiculous (in a hilarious and enjoyable way of course.) That said, the show is kind of a whimsical Mormon romp through Uganda but, wait, Elder Price nods off and all of a sudden we are in HELL!? And Mormon hell IS terrifying! If dodging an array of ghouls yielding glazed doughnuts wasn’t bad enough, there are giant coffee cups waiting to scold you…oh yeah, and Lucifer is there. Crikey. It’s alright though guys, it’s all just a strange, break from the action, dream.
Weird factor: 9 – so, hell just sort of happened? Yeah, I should have seen this coming from team Mormon, but I didn’t.
Other Weird moments in Musicals
The above is just our list of current West End curve balls, but we are aware that there are a whole lot of other crazy moments in former shows out there, just waiting to be revived and generate a whole new wave of audience vexation. Aside from pretty much every second of Jerry Spinger the Opera, there are our other favourite crazy moments from past West End shows.
1. Spring Time For Hitler – The Producers. Yep. There are both dancing pretzels and Nazis.
2. The “lol actually there are aliens” moment in Salad Days
3. The “lol, actually we’re aliens” moment in The Rocky Horror Show
4. The “lol actually, Simon Cowell is an alien” moment in I Can’t Sing!
5. The ENTIRE second Act of The Duck House. What.on.earth?! A respected politician dresses as a baby and has camembert rubbed on him amid a sexual act. Meanwhile everybody else dresses as Pandas. Christ. (Yes, I am aware this isn’t a musical but it certainly warranted a mention. A MAN IN A BABY GROW HAVING CHEESE SMEARED ON HIM, MEANWHILE THERE ARE PANDAS?!)
In our bemusement at the weird world of showbiz, we asked some of our twitter followers their opinions on crazy musical moments. Here are some of the thoughts expressed:
Have we missed something truly wacky? If so please let us know by commenting below or tweet us on twitter with #weirdmusicalmoments