Nine bizarre musicals you should see instead of Nine

Rob Marshall's latest hits theaters Christmas Day. We think you can do better.

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  • ALL THAT JAZZ (1979)

  • THE APPLE (1980)

  • DANCER IN THE DARK (2000)

  • THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T (1953)

  • GUY AND MADELINE ON A PARK BENCH (2009)

  • ONE FROM THE HEART (1982)

  • PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (1981)

  • SOUTH PARK: BIGGER LONGER & UNCUT (1999)

  • UP, DOWN, FRAGILE (1995)

ALL THAT JAZZ (1979)

ALL THAT JAZZ (1979)
Bob Fosse’s semiautobiographical feature uses hallucinatory dance numbers—fog-enshrouded and sexually charged—to illuminate the twisted death wish of a choreographer on his last legs. It brilliantly perverts the musical genre’s tendency toward the life impulse: every jump, kick and finger-snap brings the character one step closer to his flirtatious Angel of Death.—KU

THE APPLE (1980)
How nutty is Menahem Golan’s notoriously bad cult classic? It’s the only disco-fueled dystopic sci-fi musical (to date, mind you) that features boogying nuns, Ziggy Stardust clones and odes to popping pills. The big showstopper, in which dancers worship a gigantic Red Delicious in Hell, is the definition of camp.—DF

DANCER IN THE DARK (2000)
Love or hate Lars von Trier (it’s always one or the other), you have to salute this DV-shot antimusical, which captures its songs with an army of fixed cameras and bleedingly raw colors—as opposed to the muted, natural style elsewhere. Bjrk, as actor and composer, is the movie’s beating heart.—JR

THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T (1953)
Dr. Seuss disowned this hyperactive musical based on his original script and lyrics. Clearly, the man was wrong: A nightmarish piano academy, steered by the crazed Dr. Terwilliker (Hans Conried), is the site of the trippiest imagery ever foisted upon young eyes.—JR

GUY AND MADELINE ON A PARK BENCH (2009)
Situated at the intersection of mumblecore and MGM’s Freed Unit, Damien Chazelle’s lo-fi romance follows the amorous fumblings of a waitress and a jazz musician, both of whom occasionally break into song. That house-party jam is a pure endorphin rush.—DF

ONE FROM THE HEART (1982)
Francis Ford Coppola’s costly flop—shot entirely on a soundstage re-creation of Las Vegas—is a strangely beguiling mix of Cassavetes-like psychodrama and Old Hollywood fantasy. Composers Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle sing in offscreen counterpoint, voicing a couple whose relationship has hit the skids.—KU

PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (1981)
Dennis Potter, a towering figure in the modernization of the musical, adapted his BBC original series for Hollywood’s Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters, who play doomed Depression-era lovers. Eerily, the original tinny versions of 1930s songs come out of the actors’ mouths. Even more shocking: Christopher Walken can dance.—JR

SOUTH PARK: BIGGER LONGER & UNCUT (1999)
You’d expect the feature version of TV’s shock-toon to have potty humor, but Broadway-style musical numbers—and damn good ones at that?!? Sure, one of them is a love song about Saddam Hussein, and another suggests obliterating Canada. No matter; The professionalism of these song-and-dance sequences makes the sheer vulgarity of them funnier.—DF

UP, DOWN, FRAGILE (1995)
Jacques Rivette plays with our expectations of musical form in this tale of three women going through a fateful Parisian summer. It’s nearly an hour before the first number is performed, and the actors’ lack of professional dance and vocal training is always apparent. Yet the amateurism, curiously enough, only increases the magic.—KU

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