The 50 Worst Musicals Ever

Not every show is a classic

Constantine Maroulis in Jekyll & Hyde
Constantine Maroulis in Jekyll & Hyde. Photo: Sara Krulwich

OK, the title of this article is at best misleading, at worst an outright lie. Bad musicals are very different from great musicals, aside from the obvious quality factor. Great musicals tend to stick around. They receive revivals and national tours and regional productions, and there are generally more opportunities to see the truly great musicals. (See my list of The 100 Best Musicals of All Time.) 

Bad musicals tend to disappear, and perhaps rightly so. Thus, opportunities to actually see the big flops of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s are rare indeed. Shows like Kelly, Home Sweet Homer, and Flahooley have all but vanished, although the last of these did receive a fascinating cast recording. 

I've only been seeing musicals since the late 1970s, and thus can only make a list of the shows that I have personally seen in that time. But even within that time frame, there are doubtless many more shows that never made it as far as New York, or that played New York but too briefly for me to see them. In short, there are without question many more musicals that may well have earned their place onto this list, but that I simply didn't have a chance to see.

Among the many legendarily bad recent musicals that I somehow missed are Legs DiamondDracula, Dance of the Vampires, In My Life, Nick and NoraThou Shalt Not, and The Times They Are A' Changin'.

 From what I've heard, it seems highly likely that any or all of these shows would be on the list if I had had a chance to see them. 

In truth, there are very few people who could definitively write up a list of the worst musicals ever. However, I'm not going to let that stop me from trying. Because the one benefit that exists in sitting through an atrocious musical is the bragging rights, if you will, that you get from having withstood the torture.

Each of the following shows put me through a certain amount of personal pain. And for that, they must be punished. 

If you want to know why I think these shows are bad, click through on the show titles and read my reviews, where available. Also, I'm not referring to any particular production of these shows, but rather to what I see as the inherent quality of the words and the music. (Also, check out the classic tomes Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops and Second-Act Trouble: Behind the Scenes at Broadway's Big Musical Bombs.) 

But why focus on the bad stuff at all? Is the very act of listing bad musicals disloyal to the art form and disrespectful to all the people who worked so hard to put these shows on in the first place? (See "Critics: Who Needs 'Em?") Well, as I'm fond of telling my students, you have to experience what's bad if you're going to be able to discern what is good. And if I'm going to have to sit through the dreck that I've sat through, the very least that I'm going to get out of it is the ability to tell the woeful tale of the experience. 

  1. Jekyll & Hyde
  2. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
  3. 101 Dalmatians
  4. Dirty Dancing
  5. Happy Days
  6. Oh! Calcutta!
  7. Come Fly Away
  1. Lestat
  2. Something's Afoot
  3. Evil Dead: The Musical
  4. Carrie
  5. 9 to 5
  6. The Addams Family
  7. Baby It's You
  8. Rocky
  9. Ghost
  10. Starlight Express
  11. Side Show
  12. Roza
  13. Bare
  14. The Blue Flower
  15. The Pirate Queen
  16. The Boy From Oz
  17. Doctor Zhivago
  18. LoveMusik
  19. Eating Raoul
  20. Frankenstein
  21. Tarzan
  22. Allegiance
  23. Mamma Mia
  24. Into the Light
  25. Kristina
  26. Vanities
  27. Young Frankenstein
  28. Lysistrata Jones
  29. Mary Poppins
  30. Victor/Victoria
  31. Mutiny
  32. A Night With Janis Joplin
  33. The People in the Picture
  34. Scandalous
  35. The King of Hearts
  36. Finding Neverland
  37. Sister Act
  38. Wonderland
  39. Soul Doctor
  40. A Tale of Two Cities
  41. The Tin Pan Alley Rag
  42. Freckleface Strawberry
  43. Motown - The Musical