As we’ve mentioned before, villain songs are essential to musicals. Especially when they are on the stage. In fact, the coveted theatre halls, and dramatic lighting play very well to an evil number or two. What better way to romp through a belt-y sinister song with a considerable, costumed chorus and a devilish dynamite dance.
So, now it’s time to play the menacing music and explore the best stage villain songs.
There are a few rules, a few provisos, and a few quid pro quos here. Anything made for a film that has been adapted to a stage show are not to be included. We didn’t follow that rule for our other article so any songs made for the stage that featured on our Movie Villain Song List will not feature here. That’s not to say that the show won’t appear again…
Honourable Mention: Leave Luanne – 35mm: A Musical Presentation. It’s hard to class Luanne as a villain because she went through such hardship, even if she does wind up a vengeful spirit at the song’s end. Also, Rose’s Turn from Gypsy which is more someone dramatically reclaiming their life for themselves…even if it has villainous connotations.
20) Life After Life – Dracula
The epically named Frank Wildhorn is famed for bringing Gothic literature to the main stage. His works include Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlett Pimpernel, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Here, he takes on blood-sucking vampires in Dracula.
You know the story: Count Dracula lives in Transylvania. Wishing to take his fiendish ways to England, and hypnotised by a woman, Dracula descends on the world in bloody chaos.
Closing the first act, Life After Life is sung by the titular character and Lucy Westenra, following her killing and transformation into a nosferatu. It is a rompy number that details Dracula’s plans for London and the world, noting that death is just the beginning…
19) Still/The Neva Flows – Anastasia
This stage musical based on Fox’s film of the same name, based on Russian history turned myth, is shaky. Of course, the music is grand. Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s numbers such as Journey to the Past and Once Upon a December are made for that Broadway stage. The plot, however, stretched across three hours means the show loses momentum but also becomes very pro-Monarchy.
Especially because, instead of the mysterious and mystic Rasputin as a villain, the Broadway show makes the chief antagonist the son of the rebels who killed the Tsar – who, incidentally, is in love with Anastasia. However, Gleb (yes, Gleb) gets a few haunting tracks, and they combine to this frantic reprise where he is threatening Anastasia. When sung by Ramin Karimloo, most famed for his work as the Phantom of the Opera, the tune growls with the right amount of emotional heft. As Gleb sings about his father’s killings, there is a choral chime of murdered children behind him. I mean – it’s pretty dark stuff.
18) Lonely Room – Oklahoma!
Jud is most definitely a villain in Oklahoma! He is a menacing and sinister farmhand who wishes for Laurey’s hand in marriage. Becoming obsessed with her, Jud’s inner-torment is only exacerbated by Curley – who has also fallen in love with Laurey. There is a lot of violence and scuffles with Jud’s extreme temperament very much being his downfall.
However, Lonely Room is a spectacular number which doesn’t necessarily excuse Jud’s behaviour, but it definitely humanizes him. Curley, who is by no means a clean protagonist, pokes and prods at Jud until he sings this lowly number.
It is a powerful ballad (best sung by Shuler Hensley) that strips Jud down to his bare-bones; seeing him mocked, humiliated, and desperate to not feel so alone. It’s an emotional and superb number.
17) Master of the House – Les Misérables
A villain number can be one of many things – a sinister proclamation, an angry rant, or a fun-filled showstopper. This next entry is certainly in the last category. Though Jalvert is the main antagonist of Les Misérables, he at least has a moral code to which he rigidly sticks to.
However, the Thenardiers are absolute rotters but we can’t help but love them. The scoundrels are introduced as the innkeepers of a pub, who have been extorting Fantine for money after taking in her daughter Cosette (who, by the way, they treat like shit.) This song is a jaunty pub number ala Oliver’s It’s A Fine Life. It denotes how Master Thenardier and his wife scheme and scam people out of their hard-earned cash.
The melody appears again for One Day More where they talk about stealing from the pockets of dead protestors. Foul and vile rogues indeed!
16) Suppertime – Little Shop of Horrors
We’ve previously mentioned both the Dentist Song and Feed Me as great villain songs in the Little Shop of Horrors movie. You’d thought we’d have nothing left in Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s green-fingered horror to talk about. However, there is this beautiful, little number in the middle of the film in which Seymour’s murderous plant goes turns into a serial killer.
Introduced with a beautiful keyboard melody, the number sees Seymour feed his old boss to Audrey II. With the plant cooing to our plucky protagonist about his next meal, it is an almost seductive number.
15) All Falls Down – Chaplin
Hedda Hopper was a real-life gossip-columnist and actress of the classic Hollywood era and in the show – about Charlie Chaplin, if you haven’t figured it out – she is at odds with the rising fame of the silent film start.
Most famously sung by Jenn Colella, Hopper’s number All Falls Down is a brilliant show tune. Spurned by the now-famous actor, Hopper sings this an embittered number about how she plans on bringing him down. With just a little gossip and just a little lie, Hopper is determined to see Charlie Chaplin torn from his lofty pedestal. This is definitely a new tune to slip into your repertoire as it is best sung loud and filled with a lot of heart.
14) Spooky Mormon Hell Dream – Book of Mormon
Here is a villain song that is sung by the main protagonist. Not an anti-hero singing a song like Elphaba in Wicked (more on that later.) No, this is our supposed main guy singing about what an evil man he is. OK of course the basis of this is song is that, as a Mormon, things we tend to find normal human indiscretions, are condemnations to hell.
So, for eating a doughnut or leaving his mission companion, Elder Price sings about the fiery pit below. With help from Satan himself and the likes of Jeffery Dahmer, this showstopping number is fun, hilarious, and catchy as fuck.
There is no line in theatrical history as sublime as – “I can’t believe Jesus called me a dick!”
13) Miss Baltimore Crabs – Hairspray
Some people seem to be stuck on the white side of history. For Hairspray, the towering villain with a big, blonde bouffant hair-do is Velma Von Toussle. As the Corny Collins’ Show’s producer, Velma keeps strict rules for all performers. They have to be skinny, beautiful, and, most importantly, white.
Velma’s racist little ways are archaic to rising Civil Rights Movements and the plucky and plump optimistic dancer Tracy Turnblad. That’s not to say Velma doesn’t try to stomp out progress before it even begins. In this cha-cha dance number, Velma auditions new people for the show, including Tracy and, of course, she is mean and nasty about it. Whilst belting about how she earned (cheated) her way to the title of Miss Baltimore Crabs, Velma insults and belittles most of those auditioning.
Velma’s a pretty nasty character but damn if she can’t deliver a catchy tune.
12) Hey There Little Songbird – Hadestown
Hadestown is an inventive musical based on the Greek Orpheus myth which sees the poet who heads into the Underground to retrieve the spirit of his lost love. The Tony-award winning adaptation sees the Underground as a factory with never-ending labour as folk build the wall.
After arguing with Persephone, who wishes to celebrate summertime in the world above instead of the misery of the titular town, Hades goes in search of someone who will appreciate is home. There he comes across the desperate Eurydice and sings her this number to entice her to Hadestown.
The deep growling vocals of Patrick Page denote this sultry little song as Eurydice helpless calls out to Orpheus to come back to her.
11) The Pitiful Children – Be More Chill
Computer chip SQUIP has entered the brain of lead Jeremy in the new musical Be More Chill. From his arrival, it is instantly obvious that the SQUIP is a sinister bit of hardware. Whilst the technology initially helps the nerdy Jeremy get cool, the SQUIP has its eyes set on something bigger like, oh I don’t know, world domination?
Though stuck inside the brain of a spotty teenager, the SQUIP plans to expand its operation and have all of humanity under its computerised thumb.
As the SQUIP convinces Jeremey to infect his fellow classmates with other megalomaniac software, he croons this electrifying number. Some of the best villain songs are born from
Is your favourite here?
Check back for the Top 10!