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Best Cult Stage Musicals

Updated on August 24, 2013

Musicals That Have Achieved Cult Status

On Broadway, some musicals are unmitigated hits and may even run for years--Cats, Phantom of the Opera, and Les Miserables come to mind, among others. Then you have the flops--Leap of Faith, Dance of the Vampires, and countless other musicals that closed their doors after a less-than-respectable number of performances.

Some of those flops, however, go on to develop a cult status with legions of fans--they gain a new life in regional theater and through original cast recordings.

Read on for the best cult musicals from on (or off) the Broadway stage.

A Clip from The Rocky Horror Show

The Rocky Horror Show

If you're making a list of cult musicals, top and foremost on the list is probably The Rocky Horror Show, which didn't do well after coming from across the pond and then was made into a movie starring Tim Curry as the lusty Dr. Frank N. Furter.

Brad and Janet, recently engaged, are on their way to visit an old tutor when they get caught in a rainstorm with a flat tire and seek shelter and a telephone at the nearest house--a strange castle, filled with even stranger people. They're uneasy when they meet Frank, and more so when they find out he's a scientist who has created the perfect specimen of a man, named Rocky Horror.

From there, the plot verges into murder, sexual awakening, and a final blast-off into outer space. While the musical film comes more to mind when you think of cult following--there are midnight showings all over the country, with props and sing-alongs and costumes--the stage musical is what started it all.

A Clip from Side Show

Side Show

Side Show is a musical with two main characters who are attached at the hip--literally. Daisy and Violet are Siamese twins who make a living by participating in a circus sideshow, and the performers did actually exist back in the 1930s.

Violet, the quiet sister, longs for a normal life with a husband and babies, while Daisy longs for the limelight. They both fall in love and do end up in the limelight--though not everything works out for the best, in the end they do have each other.

A musical about conjoined twins is just quirky enough to become a cult hit and build up quite an audience over the years, and while sometimes the songs falter for the most part they are strong and entertaining.

A Clip from Bat Boy

Bat Boy

Bat Boy is a cult classic inspired by a story in the World Weekly News, a tabloid that once reported a completely made-up but entertaining story about a vicious bat-boy creature found in a cave.

Bat Boy: The Musical takes that premise, leaving the setting in a backwards West Virginia town, and notches up the absurdity and the fun. When the local vet's wife can't stand the thought of the bat creature being put down, she pleads for his life and is delighted when she succeeds in teaching the batboy to talk and act like a civilized person--unaware that her husband is feeding the batboy blood, and that without it the creature will again sink into savagery.

The musical has thwarted romance, a rocky marriage, a bat creature with an odd British accent, and locals who are ready to storm in with pitchforks--and the songs are fun, too.

A Clip from Carrie


Stephen King's novel Carrie is hardly a cult hit--it's one of the most popular horror novels ever and launched his career as a writer. The musical, though, was less successful--it opened to very poor reviews and lost $7 million.

Fast forward to today, and the musical has gained a devoted cult following. As in the book, Carrie is a tormented teen who is teased by her peers at school and emotionally abused by her religious fanatic mother at home. When she discovers that she can use her mind to move objects, she begins to practice with her power, which explodes into destruction on prom night when she is the victim of a cruel prank.

Carrie's critics mocked the fake blood, the uninspired lyrics, and the bland music--but it lives on today and was even revived in 2012.

Other Cult Musicals You May Enjoy

Of course, other great cult musicals abound, including:

  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Tommy
  • Xanadu
  • Anyone Can Whistle
  • Taboo
  • Dance of the Vampires

What's your favorite cult musical?


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