Villains of Broadway
Every story has its knight in shiny armor. The prince that slays the dragon, and saves the princess, rushes the bad guy and gets the fair lady from the train tracks, the one that saves the day! Raoul saves Christine, Hamilton gets all the fame and power, people all over Oz love Glinda, Simba becomes king, Cady dates Aaron. The list goes on. We understand them and we love them, but what about the bad guys? Regina? Scar? Jafar? Aaron Burr? The Wizard? The General from “The Book of Mormon”? It is not uncommon to sympathize with some of them, and quite often to even love them.
The villains are a colorful bunch and sometimes have nearly nothing in common. Can we compare Regina with Aaron Burr? No. But The Wizard with the General? Yes. And Jafar, Scar, and Hans from the Southern Isles? Even more.
Aaron Burr – “Hamilton”
“Hamilton” is still the hottest play on Broadway, and Burr is the narrator. He is a historical figure, American politician and Thomas Jefferson’s vice president. He is the enemy of Alexander Hamilton. Although admiring each other (“Burr, you’re a better lawyer than me”) the fundamental differences between the two put them against each other. They constantly “keep meeting” through the play.
At one point, Burr is driven by envy. He envies Hamilton of his quick rise, of being Washington’s right-hand man. The final drop is Hamilton’s endorsement of Jefferson in the Election of 1800. All this results in a duel between the two where Burr shoots Hamilton eight times. He later laments his faith – “And me? I’m the fool that shot him!”
However, Aaron Burr is one of the sympathetic villains on Broadway, mostly because of Leslie Odom Jr.’s masterful play, which gave him a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical (and partly because Hamilton is a pain in the lowest part of the back). A fun fact is that this has given “Hamilton” one of its few defeats that evening – Lin-Manuel Miranda was also nominated Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Alexander Hamilton.
BONUS: King George III. I have to admit that I laugh just of the thought of Jonathan Groff’s performance of the goofy and really mean British monarch (that got him a Tony Award nomination, too). Yet, taking away an entire continent off an empire is a serious business. His Royal Majesty will send fully armed battalions and kill our friends and family…to remind us of his love. Da dadada dayada…
Regina George – “Mean Girls”
Regina George…she is a massive deal. Rich, sassy, and stunning, she is the leader of her own pack – The Plastics, and she’s our worst high school nightmare. She “converts” the innocent Cady to the group just to be overthrown by her. Then she just proves the saying that the wounded beast is the most dangerous. She unleashes the “Burn book” – a book with pictures and mean comments on their schoolmates, causing mayhem in school. Cady gets suspended from school, and Regina gets hit by a bus (ouch!). However, “Mean Girls” is a rather light-hearted musical and all turns good in the end – everybody hug and sing together.
Both Taylor Louderman and Reneé Rapp pull off amazing performances, making us love to hate Regina Even more. Sadly, none of them got a Tony.
The Wizard of Oz – “Wicked”
“Wicked” is rather multi-dimensional when it comes to the main character. We have a specific good guy – Glinda, an anti-hero (blamed to be a villain) – Elphaba, and an antagonist in somewhat of a shadow – The Wizard, along with the government. They represent something that is still common in the 21st century – tyrannical, oppressive regimes.
The Wizard, Morrible, and the government hold all the power in The Land of Oz. They control the media, and thus – the people. They discriminate the different (animals like Dr. Dillamond and the lion cub) and suppress everyone that dares to stand up. They blamed Elphaba to be the biggest possible villain, called her Wicked, and when she retaliated – they just lost it (I promise no good deed will I attempt to do again ever again no good deed will I do again! We have a happy end here, too, with Glinda gaining all the glory, the government gets overthrown, and Elphaba flies to the sunset with Fiyero.
Scar, Jafar, and Hans of the Southern Isles
They share a lot in common, not only because they are Disney characters. Their goals are the same – take the power from the legitimate ruler.
It is very common for Disney characters to gain more dimensions when they get on stage. They look really evil. Scar kills Mufasa, and blames it to Simba, thus sending him to an exile. He is cunning, calculating, and Machiavellian. However, he is far too tyrannical to be successful. In the end, Simba returns to serve justice.
Jafar resorts to magic and asks Iago to find him a diamond in the rough to bring him the secrets of the Cave of Wonders”. This turns out to be the Genie. We all know how this follows, how Aladdin uses his wishes, his love story with Jasmin, and how he tricks Jafar to wish that he becomes a genie himself. Jafar really becomes a real, mighty genie. That gets trapped in a lamp.
Hans of the Seven Kingdoms…my bad, of the Southern Isles, was always cunning and rather cruel. And that led to comparisons with some characters of Game of Thrones. Being behind in the line of succession of his kingdom, he ventures to the neighboring kingdom of Arendelle where he wants to become king via marriage. He manages to charm Anna, they kiss and ask Elsa blessing their marriage.
Hans gains power after Elsa runs away and Anna goes to search her. He arrives at the castle where he charges Elsa with treason and accuses her of killing Anna. Anna (alive) manages to save her and punches Hans! In your face, Hans! I’m quite sure that he actually is a Lannister – cruel, opportunistic and calculating.
The General (Book of Mormon)
“The Book of Mormon” is a satirical take on everything – religion, relations, politics, you name it, I’m sure a miss some more.
I prefer to address him as just The General for obvious reasons. He holds the ultimate power in Uganda. His soldiers rob Price and Cunningham upon their arrival, mutilates the local females, and kills a villager when he protests. He has everyone else in terror, but in the end he and his man and scared away by the “reincarnated” Price and Cunningham.
We may draw a parallel between him and the Wizard – they hold the absolute power over their respective places. And while The Wizard resorts to a more subtle approach, The General is basically a butcher.
The Phantom (“The Phantom of the Opera”)
Ok, I’m guilty here. The Phantom is my favorite villain on Broadway. He is in my Top 3 villains along with Darth Vader and Cardinal De Richelieu in my all-arts top. And I know I’m not the only one who admires him so highly.
We can argue is the Phantom a real villain or an anti-hero. I believe he shares traits of both. He is hated due to his physical malformation. He was a circus attraction, mocked and laughed. This is where he loath to all humanity comes. He finds his sanctuary in a cave under the Paris opera. Where he later finds Christine, he falls for her and won’t stop at anything to get her. This is where the line between the anti-hero and the villain is drawn. He resorts to cheating, lying, and killing just to get her. He masters technology that even today, in the 21st Century, will be considered cutting edge. And he uses it with no remorse.
Yet he is defeated by love and kindness. He understands that Christine loves Raoul and that the life in his cave is just not for her. And then he disappears…
We can sum it all up with the Yin and Yang philosophy – we just can’t see the bright without the dark. For every Raoul, there always must be a Phantom. For every Hamilton – a Burr, an evil regime for Elphaba and Elder Price to oppose. And, as we may see, a masterfully created villain will always receive at least as much as love as the good guy.