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Worst musicals on Broadway from this millenium

The 25 worst Broadway musicals of the millennium

Once you’ve seen these song-and-dance bombs, you can’t un-see them. Here are the worst Broadway musicals since 2000.

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman
&
David Cote
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When it comes to Broadway musicals, we try to accentuate the positive. We cheer for breakthroughs such as Hamilton. We get misty-eyed when the Tony Awards hand out prizes. We curate a list of the best Broadway shows to share our enthusiasms. But anyone who loves song-and-dance spectacles has a dark side: There’s a flop vulture in each of us, keeping track of the dumbest, tackiest and most misguided musicals we’ve ever seen. Hence this list, a chronological reckoning of the worst Broadway musicals since 2000—a mix of awkward sentimentality, crimes against literature, bottom-scraping jukebox shows and deeply misconceived film-to-musical adaptations. Together, they represent more than 50 hours of agony, boredom and embarrassment in the theater. Yet today, we present them and say: Enjoy!

RECOMMENDED: Find every musical on Broadway and Off Broadway right now

Worst Broadway musicals

Thou Shalt Not
Photograph: Courtesy Thou Salt Not

Thou Shalt Not

Director Susan Stroman was on fire after the runaway success of 2001’s The Producers, but she doused her momentum in shallow water later that year at the helm of Harry Connick Jr.’s musical tragedy, set in 1940s New Orleans.
Opening date: October 25, 2001
Performances: 85
From Jason Zinoman’s review: "Lincoln Center’s vulgar adaptation of Emile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin is a misguided laughingstock of the variety that only Broadway can produce. Thou Shalt Not is a story of murder, greed and sin—with a little tap dancing thrown in.”

Dance of the Vampires
Photograph: Courtesy Dance of the Vampires

Dance of the Vampires

Michael Crawford sucked hard as an aristocratic neck-biter pursued by a vampire hunter somewhere in the Carpathian Mountains. The bombastic, campy score was by Jim Steinman, including his hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
Opening date:
December 9, 2002
Performances: 56
From Jason Zinoman’s review: “Subtle, this ain’t. The overamped Vampires doesn’t just preach that bigger is better. Louder, brighter and hammier work too. Why have one dancing vampire, when you can crowd the stage with half a dozen Draculas kickin’ up their heels?”

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Urban Cowboy
Photograph: Courtesy Urban Cowboy

Urban Cowboy

A Texas honky-tonk with a mechanical bull (stay on it and win a cash prize) was the main setting for this country & western rom-com about a woman who has to choose between an ex-con and a hardworkin’ good ole boy.
Opening date: March 27, 2003
Performances: 60
From David Cote’s review: “When not relying on pop-country classics and bump ’n’ grind line-dancing extravaganzas, the flimsy book veers between dumb jokes and pathetic stabs at character development. Woe betide anyone hankering for a well-crafted musical. You’d be looking for art in all the wrong places.”

Dracula
Photograph: Courtesy Dracula

Dracula

Hoping to reproduce the success of his awful but long-running Jekyll & Hyde, composer Frank Wildhorn returned to Broadway with a synth-heavy, ultrabombastic musical fright fest that had critics running for rhetorical garlic.
Opening date: August 19, 2004
Performances: 157
From Adam Feldman’s review: “Dracula plays like the longest and drippiest Meat Loaf video over, a dunderheaded pseudoromance that travesties Bram Stoker’s novel. (A Dracula who emerges from his coffin to sing ‘It’s hard to make each moment count when you’re alone / Maybe that’s all I need to know’ is unlikely to strike fear into anyone except those with taste in lyrics.)”

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Brooklyn
Photograph: Courtesy Brooklyn

Brooklyn

A cast of five wore garbage, and sang it, in this loud and bizarre musical, presented as a play-within-a-play by homeless musicians under a bridge. Somehow it all ended with a sing-off between a French convent girl and an evil Black diva at Madison Square Garden.
Opening date: October 21, 2004
Performances: 284
From David Cote’s review: “The latest example of urban blight is Brooklyn, by far the biggest eyesore, earsore and brainsore on the Great White Way. An infantile urban fable periodically pierced by American Idol–style bellowing, Brooklyn wallows in trash of every kind. What it deserves from any self-respecting inhabitant of the five boroughs is a loud Bronx cheer.”

Good Vibrations
Photograph: Courtesy Good Vibrations

Good Vibrations

More than 30 Beach Boys songs were crammed into this story about a geeky high-school graduate and her three friends on a cross-country sojourn to California for surfing and romance.
Opening date: February 2, 2005
Performances: 94
From David Cote’s review: “It’s the kind of embarrassing fiasco that only a committee of gutless and tasteless Broadway producers could foist on the public. The deformed hate child Mamma Mia! and Movin’ Out, it aspires to the ditsy hit-parade nostalgia of the former and the aerobic dance appeal of the latter.”

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Lennon
Photograph: Courtesy Lennon

Lennon

Another jukebox-musical misfire, this one with songs by visionary ex-Beatle John Lennon. A diverse nine-member ensemble trudged its way through Lennon’s hits in an abstract, high-concept staging.
Opening date: August 14, 2005
Performances: 49
From David Cote’s review: “A ’70s-nostalgia wallow and peacenik hagiography implicitly pegged to the war in Iraq. Advance hype on this show was misleadingly dire. It’s not the car crash that flop vultures have hoped for, but that’s only because its engine never starts.”

In My Life
Photograph: Courtesy In My Life

In My Life

Joseph Brooks was best known for the treacly pop ballad “You Light Up My Life” when he wrote, directed and produced this gobsmacker about a young man with Tourette syndrome and a brain tumor. In the show’s takeaway number, a campy angel sang “There’s a little rumor / Someone’s got a tumor,” then danced with a skeleton.
Opening Date: October 20, 2005
Performances: 61
From David Cote’s review: “Delusions of grandeur clearly attended the clueless construction of this musical, in which people fall in love with undetectable chemistry, suffer without arousing pity and die with no other consequence than relief. Those who decry shows made by committee should be careful what they wish for: In My Life is the sound of one man flopping.”

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Hot Feet
Photograph: Courtesy Hot Feet

Hot Feet

An African-American twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s short story “The Red Shoes” and Michael Powell’s 1948 movie, scored to pop hits by Earth, Wind & Fire. Maurice Hines choreographed and directed this flat-footed fable about a young dancer mixed up with a satanic impresario.
Opening date: April 30, 2006
Performances: 97
From David Cote’s review: “This overamped, overacted eyesore barely sustains interest beyond the morbid kind: What new terpsichorean travesty will they foist on us next? In seeking to force the Faustian moral into a modern-day African-American context, Hines displays either flagrant ignorance, cynicism—or both.”

Lestat
Photograph: Courtesy Lestat

Lestat

After the Dance of the Vampires and Dracula fiascos, Broadway hardly needed another bloodsucker musical, but it got a third anyhow in this Anne Rice adaptation, with a score by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. This one put the nail in the coffin—for now, at least.
Opening date: April 25, 2006
Performances: 39
From Adam Feldman’s review: “Like any bogeyman in a B-grade fright flick, the vampire musical won’t stay dead. Just when it seemed safe to go to Broadway again, Lestat has swooped into the Palace. Is Elton John’s undead musical much better than its predecessors? The short answer is: no. The long answer is: no, no, no. Episodic and maudlin, the show is bound together by crimson kitsch."

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The Pirate Queen
Photograph: Courtesy The Pirate Queen

The Pirate Queen

The buccaneering hero of this leaky historical musical by Les Misérables creators Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg was a female raider who gives England’s Elizabeth I trouble on the high seas.
Opening date: April 5, 2007
Performances: 85
From David Cote’s review: “Even from the most crassly pandering point of view, The Pirate Queen is a total failure: not even good schlock. If only the creative team had the courage of its lack of conviction. It puts the aar back in aartless gaarbage.”

Baby It’s You!
Photograph: Courtesy Baby It’s You

Baby It’s You!

Although this jukebox musical was built around the songs of the Shirelles (with the glaring exception of their biggest hit, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow"), the African-American singers took a back seat to the story of their producer, a Jewish New Jersey housewife played by Beth Leavel.
Opening date:
April 27, 2011
Performances: 148
From David Cote’s review:Baby It's You! touches on a few worthy topics—payola, interracial romance, Brill Building song-factory practices—and manages to drain each of tension and subtlety. The big-voiced, warmly rueful Leavel moves heaven and earth to make us root for plucky Florence. Whole seconds pass in which you forget how dumb and shoddy the show is.”

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The People in the Picture
Photograph: Courtesy The People in the Picture

The People in the Picture

Donna Murphy played a Jewish bubbe regaling her granddaughter with tales of her friends in the Warsaw Ghetto. Who doesn’t love a tear-jerking musical about the Holocaust? As it turns out, a lot of people don’t.
Opening date: April 11, 2011
Performances: 60
From Adam Feldman’s review: “The People in the Picture renders its story the way fat is rendered in an old Jewish home: over low heat, with traditional tools, in the service of making schmaltz. Iris Rainer Dart's sincere, well-meaning musical caters to a taste for sentiment spread thick. But crying at this show is like crying at sliced onions.”

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (original version)
Photograph: Courtesy Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (original version)

Julie Taymor could not get the Bono-and-the-Edge-scored comic-book musical off the ground. Six months of previews, onstage injuries, desperate spin and a $75 million-dollar un-recouped budget made it the flop to end all flops.
Opening date: June 14, 2011
Performances: 1066
From David Cote’s review of version 1.0:Spider-Man is a crummy, pandering kids' musical pretending to be a new form of entertainment—a 'circus rock drama,' as Taymor claims with Barnum-level swagger. The production is a deeply confused, ugly, ultimately boring example of artistic hubris enabled by financial excess."

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Wonderland
Photograph: Courtesy Wonderland

Wonderland

Ever eager to put his stamp on public-domain material, Dracula tunesmith Frank Wildhorn dragged Lewis Carroll's beloved Alice down a dingy rabbit hole in this joylessly energetic blunder.
Opening date: April 17, 2011
Performances: 33
From Adam Feldman’s review: "’Tis Wildhorn, and the hapless cast / Does direly gambol on the stage. / All flimsy is the plot half-assed, / Not right for any age. / Beware of Wonderland, I warn! / The jokes that cloy, the scenes that flop! / Beware the humdrum words and scorn / The spurious, bland rock-pop!”

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
Photograph: Courtesy On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

The 1965 version of this musical was a famous mess about extrasensory perception, past lives and a kooky gal with a magical green thumb. The 2011 revisal, rewritten extensively enough to be considered a new show with an old score, made it even murkier.
Opening date: December 11, 2011
Performances: 57
From David Cote’s review: “It was broke, but they sure ain't fixed it. The famously flawed 1965 Burton Lane–Alan Jay Lerner romantic comedy has been reincarnated into a clunky bore that switches time periods and gender, inserts a gay subplot and turns its putative hero into a creepy, manipulative stalker.”

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Scandalous
Photograph: Courtesy Scandalous

Scandalous

Morning talk-show host Kathie Lee Gifford penned the book, lyrics and some music for this manic, grating paean to the life and work of controversial Hollywood spiritual leader Aimee Semple McPherson (1890–1944).
Opening date: November 15, 2012
Performances: 29
From David Cote’s review: “It’s a CliffsNotes take on the 20th-century evangelist, a trinity of camp, kitsch and middlebrow morality that, through uncritical worship, makes its hero the least interesting person onstage—despite throat-shredding vocal pyrotechnics. I have seen worse shows, but few as wild-eyed and zealously wrongheaded.”

Soul Doctor
Photograph: Courtesy Soul Doctor

Soul Doctor

Shlomo Carlebach was a charismatic Hasid who used folky, catchy tunes to spread a hippie-friendly message of spirituality in the 1960s and beyond. This short-lived tuner didn't win him any converts.
Opening date: August 15, 2013
Performances: 66
From Adam Feldman’s review: “Gevalt! The best that can be said about this strange Broadway musical, based on the life and music of ‘singing rabbi’ Shlomo Carlebach, is that it isn’t as bad as it sounds. But the show digs shallowly into its central character, and often rings false. Reverent to a fault, Soul Doctor bleaches a story that cries out for tie-dye.”

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Doctor Zhivago
Photograph: Courtesy Doctor Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago

Boris Pasternak’s novel of life before and after the 1917 Russian Revolution was the fodder for this lumbering dud. An idealistic physician survives World War I, sadistic Soviets and multiple hardships, all while pursuing the woman he loves.
Opening date: April 21, 2015
Performances: 23
From David Cote’s review: “No amount of Lucy Simon’s syrupy, portentous music—swamping Michael Korie and Amy Powers’s workmanlike lyrics—can make us care for the synthetic, drably colored pageant. Des McAnuff’s staging looks expensive but ugly, with cheesy video close‑ups of actors, giant Soviet propaganda posters, eruptions of fire and the occasional explosion or gunshot to wake us up. To Siberia with it.”

Amazing Grace
Photograph: Courtesy Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

First-time composer-lyricist and book writer Christopher Smith took inspiration from the life and religious conversion of John Newton, a British slave trader who later in life wrote lyrics for the hymn “Amazing Grace.”
Opening date: July 16, 2015
Performances: 116
From David Cote’s review: “A clunky period piece broken up by bombastic, generic anthems. Personally, I expect poetic license in the theater, but it should serve a strong artistic or political vision. Amazing Grace has neither. It comes out strongly against slavery; well done. But it mainly proves that folks are willing to burn piles of money trying to resurrect the 1980s-style megamusical.”

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Home for the Holidays
Photograph: Courtesy Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays

This tacky pop-up Broadway concert, the yuletide equivalent of a Halloween costume store, featured a comically motley cast: three winners of televised vocal contests, a former star of The Bachelorette, a married a cappella duo and veteran character actor Danny Aiello.
Opening date: November 21, 2017
Performances: 47
From Adam Feldman’s review: “Home for the Holidays is unlikely to remind you much of home, unless you were raised in a department-store elevator."

Gettin' the Band Back Together
Photograph: Courtesy of the artist

Gettin' the Band Back Together

A 40-year-old stockbroker in New Jersey must reassemble his high-school rock combo to save his mother from eviction in this schlocky and formulaic comedy by Ken Davenport and Mark Allen.
Opening date: August 13, 2018
Performances: 40
From Adam Feldman’s review: “Gettin’ the Band Back Together aspires to a knowing attitude toward its own silliness, but it’s not sharp enough to pull off the gambit; you can’t tell if it’s winking or just has something weird in its eye. Whatever quotation marks this musical might want to put around 'stupid' have melted away, leaving only desperate salesmanship."

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Photograph: Courtesy Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

An impoverished child gets the chance to take candy from a stranger in this shapeless musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved children's story.
Opening date: October 5, 2018
Performances: 305
From David Cote’s review: “This dull, clunky adaptation of the book and movie with none of the wit of the former nor the dreamy wonder of the latter. Adults are bound to conclude that Charlie is like what happens with an Everlasting Gobstopper: lots of sucking.”

King Kong
Photograph: Courtesy of the artist

King Kong

Broadway went apeshit in a musical afaptation of the ape-meets-girl classic that featured an extremely impressive 20-foot, 2,000-pound animatronic puppet. But this very special effect was caged in a vehicle that was mostly pretty awful.
Opening date: November 8, 2018
Performances: 322
From Adam Feldman's review: “The truly frustrating thing about King Kong is the waste of it all. Why did this story, whose central figure necessarily cannot sing, need to be a musical at all, much less one that suggests a late-run Simpsons parody?”

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Diana the Musical
Photograph: Courtesy Diana

Diana the Musical

Book writer Joe DiPietro and composer David Bryan offered a campy, dishy pop-rock clip job of tabloid moments from the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, who died in a car accident in 1997.
Opening date: November 17, 2021
Performances: 34
From Adam Feldman's review: “The gobsmacking unseriousness that characterizes Diana’s approach to the late princess is also what makes it bearable to watch in a way that a more earnest version would probably never have been. For collectors of flop shows, Diana is a keeper: It goes for broke, and achieves it.”

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