The most problematic Broadway shows


Guyon Ainsworth Grant II, Reporter

For decades, the art of story-telling and mythmaking have been some of the most cherished human traditions. Art imitates life and life can be very offensive. Given that the political climate in the United States is ever changing, it’s not uncommon that theatre is a victim of public misunderstanding. Composers and lyricists love to poke the bear and take risks with subject matter. Many musicals try to find a perfect line between satire and outright absurdity and if the creators are successful, they ride that line like there’s no tomorrow. 

When asked to name an offensive show, theatre nerds everywhere will often mention the raunchy puppet comedy musical, “Avenue Q”. With songs like, “Everyone’s a Little Bit racist”, “The Internet is for Porn”, and “If You Were Gay” this show is sure to put off some audiences. To perform this show is a gamble and a half. Though some of the songs are extremely catchy and make great audition songs, the reason this show isn’t performed more outside of Broadway is because of the context. The iconic performances of the original cast, including puppet legend John Tartaglia, are also something that could be a reason people don’t put on the show. Fans of this show would agree that it would take some real special talent to do the characters justice to the original cast. Another reason could be that puppeteers are few and far between. Even on Broadway the puppetry aspect of the show had parents making severe miscalculations when it came to a night out with the family. Bringing your kid to see, what looks like, a Sesame Street musical, just to be scarred by a lively and aggressive puppet sex scene, didn’t go over well. When four letter swear words are the least troubling part of a musical there’s guaranteed to be controversy. This is all just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this show. Under all of the offensive jokes and over the top absurdity, there’s a real message about growing up and the reality of being in your 30’s with no purpose. The soundtrack to this show is on Spotify and Apple Music. Out of all the shows I’ll talk about, this is definitely one of my favorites. 

A rule of thumb when it comes to musicals is; a show is only as weird and freaky as its fans. For example, the musical “Hamilton”  would be held in a higher regard if the die hard fans weren’t weirdos. However, an exception to this rule would be the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”. From the beautifully twisted mind of Richard O’Brien, this movie musical has developed a deserved cult following. This show was extremely weird and edgy before all of the attention from theatre geeks everywhere. The show premiered in theaters in the 70’s. My father actually recalls his experience seeing it in the theater. He talks about all the “weirdos that would come to the local movie theater, dressed in drag and carrying water guns full of lotion.” Due to the extremely sexual nature of the show, it sure earned it’s R rating. A full synopsis of the show is enough to make my catholic grandma pass out. It follows a lovestruck couple, Brad and Janet, that get stranded at a castle. The castle is occupied by odd party guests and is owned by an alien transvestite, Dr. Frankefurter. The doctor, played by Tim Curry, proceeds to create a living man for the sole purpose of, let’s say “playing tennis.” Curry’s character then proceeds to sexually assault Brad and Janet, kill a man, have the party guests eat his body, and make the main characters perform a revealing burlesque routine against their will, followed by a pool scene with just enough clothing not be considered straight pornography. While that is a very gruesome and hyperbolic description of this rock musical, I wouldn’t recommend this show if you find the subject matter offensive. The motion picture can be found on Amazon Prime Video but if one just wants to enjoy the amazing soundtrack, it’s available on most music streaming services.

These shows aren’t the only offensive productions Broadway has put on. There are dozens more that poke fun at religion, race, and sexual orientation. For many reasons, those shows were left out. These stories are masterfully crafted and composed. Even with the intense subject matter, the music and performances in each one make it way better than “Hairspray” Of course Hairspray is the most offensive Broadway production, the story follows a quirked up white girl with a perm, on a mission to solve racism, by being a tv star. Putting aside the outdated dialogue, the score doesn’t redeem the 2007 movie version. I love John Travolta but any time he’s the best part of a movie… it’s a bad movie. So, no matter what your personal opinion is on a broadway show just remember, at least it’s not as bad as “Hairspray.”