6 Tony Award Winning Musicals With A Dark Side

Musicals Outside the Norm

These six shows are not your run of the mill happy-go-lucky musicals. Each one deals with the dark side of human nature within the context of beautiful music. My favorite songs represent ones that could be used as stand-alone recital or choral material.

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Sweeney Todd -- music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

One of my all-time favorite thriller musicals, Sweeney Todd is the story of a wrongly accused man who comes back to London for revenge. He becomes the "demon barber on fleet street," who kills people and has them baked into pies. Though it has a sinister premise, the musical is humorous at times.

Sweeney Todd has won eight Tony Awards including "Best Musical" and nine Drama Desk Awards including "Outstanding Musical" for its original Broadway production. It went on to win 50 of the most prestigious awards as a staged musical. The film production also won 15 of the most coveted awards including the Golden Globe in 2008 for "Best Motion Picture -- Musical or Comedy."

Favorite Songs: “The Worst Pies in London,” “Green Finch and Linnet Bird,” “Pretty Women,” “Epiphany,” “A Little Priest,” “Johanna,” “Not While I’m Around.”

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The Phantom of the Opera -- music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Charles Hart

The story of The Phantom of the Opera is one of a young emerging soprano whose voice is cultivated by the infamous character known as “the phantom of the opera,” a lonely and disfigured man who lives under an opera house and falls madly in love with his student. The phantom is able to pull some nasty tricks that scare cast members to give his protégé a chance to sing on stage, which ironically leads her true love to her.

The Phantom of the Opera also won numerous awards including two Laurence Olivier Awards for "Best New Musical" in 1986 and "Most Popular Show" in 2002 for its original London production. The original Broadway production won a total of six Tony Awards and seven Drama Desk Awards.

Favorite Songs: “Think of Me,” “Angel of Music,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “The Music of the Night,” “All I Ask of You,” “Masquerade,” “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again,” “The Point of No Return.”

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Into the Woods -- music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Into the Woods combines several stories and characters from the Brother Grimm’s Fairy tales. The musical gives an added depth to all the characters, uses the original stories, and creates a completely new and interesting one.

Into the Woods was nominated for over 50 prestigious awards and won over 15 of them. The most recent being the Laurence Olivier Award for "Best Musical Revival" in 2010 for its production that same year in London.

Favorite Songs: “Act One Prologue,” “Hello, Little Girl,” “I Guess This is Goodbye,” “I Know Things Now,” “Agony,” “It Takes Two,” “Witch’s Lament,” “Moments in the Woods,” “No One is Alone.”

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Oliver! -- music and lyrics by Lionel Bart

Starving orphans, crime on the street, abuse, murder, and thievery. This is not your happy-go-lucky doggy animated Disney show, but a typical dark story based on the Charles Dickens novel, “Oliver Twist.” The music is inspiring and the story ends hopeful.

Of the many awards Oliver! won, the Tony Award for "Best Original Score" is notable. The movie musical received five Academy Awards and two Golden Globes, which included "Best Picture," "Best Sound," and "Best Motion Picture -- Musical or Comedy."

Favorite Songs: “Food, Glorious Food,” “Oliver!” “Where Is Love?” “Consider Yourself,” “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two,” “I’d Do Anything,” “Oom-Pah-Pah,” “As Long as He Needs Me.”

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Pippin -- music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

A carnival style musical with a sensual Cirque du Soleil feeling, the story follows the main character, Pippin, in his search for the meaning of life. During his pursuit, he confronts his own darkness.

Pippin won eight Tony Awards alone. The Broadway revival in 2013 won over 15 prestigious awards including the Tony Awards for "Best Revival of a Musical," "Best Choreography," and "Best Costume Design of a Musical."

Favorite Songs: “Magic to Do,” “Corner of the Sky,” “Love Song,” “I Guess I’ll Miss the Man.”

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Candide -- music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Richard Wilbur

The musical The Fantasticks was greatly influenced by Candide and far less successful. Both follow the story of innocents who realize the world can be downright evil. Candide may be considered an operetta, which is something in-between a musical and an opera, but its subject matter lands it firmly on this list.

Candide was nominated for five Tony Awards in 1957 for its original Broadway production, but My Fair Lady walked away with them all. Despite the tough competition, it later won five Tony Awards, five Drama Desk Awards, and two Laurence Olivier Awards.

Favorite Songs: “Oh, Happy We,” “It Must Be So,” “Glitter and Be Gay,” “The Ballad of Eldorado,” “What’s the Use?” “The Venice Gavotte,” “Make Our Garden Grow.”