by Chris Roberts

Hey, opera fans… do you find Tristan und Isolde to be not quite depressing enough? Well, have we got some hot news for you! Coming soon to London’s Royal Opera House is a new musical based on the life of world famous gold digger Anna Nicole Smith. Details are hard to come by at this point, but there are some basics that have been made available. Eva Maria Westbroek has been tapped to play the title role and the production will roll out February 17, 2011. Smith, for those of you who have so quickly forgotten, made headlines in 1993 for being the Playboy Playmate of the Year and then the following year for marrying filthy rich oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall. After that, things were pretty much downhill for her as she spent a large chunk of her adult life tied up in legal battles and eventually died at the age of 39 of an accidental drug overdose. Last week, a court threw out her entire claim to Marshall’s estate. This disturbing new twist has left us wondering what other misguided musicals have come and gone. Below is our list of the top 5 of all time.

1. Via Galactica (1972)
Back in 1972, the few brave souls who were quick enough on the trigger to catch this mess during its extremely short existence were treated to a five-alarm spectacle that was the biggest Broadway flop of it’s time. A joint venture between Christopher Gore and Galt McDermont (whose God vs. Satan showdown Dude from the same year nearly missed our list) found their characters, led by Raul Julia, traveling around the galaxy inside an asteroid exactly 1,000 years in the future. Clearly, trying to hide their disastrous book under a pile of gimmicks the production featured trapeze acts and pyrotechnics. Oh and in their version of the future everybody looks like members of the Blue Man Group. Sadly, the hows and whys are never explained. Its reputation as a Broadway disaster would be eclipsed a decade later by Carrie but we see no reason why now isn’t the perfect time to start petitioning for a revival.

2. Jerry Springer (2003)

It is impossible to comprise this list without including this legendary member of the bad idea club. The show featured two plot threads, one that chronicled a day in the life of the show itself and another that followed Springer as he descended from Heaven on down to Hell. During its initial run through England it had to endure vicious attacks from the Christian right who deemed it “filth and blasphemy” and from prudes who found its reported 3,168 F-Bombs too much to bear. But through all that they powered through winning rave reviews and embarking on a wildly successful world tour. Whether its winning ways were because of or despite the troop of tap dancing KKK members is still up for debate.

3. Civil War (1999)
In reality it only destroyed our unity, production, infrastructure, and the entire city of Atlanta, not to mention the million plus people who died because of it, so why wouldn’t it be used as an excuse to cram generic, banal show tunes down the collective throat of the masses? It arrived on Broadway to much fanfare, mostly due to the score of Frank Wildhorn who was especially hot at the time, but quickly ran into a storm of angry critics who wondered aloud how all the drama could have been drained from such an extraordinary period of human history. It staggered through 61 performances before folding but in the process it earned itself a Tony nomination for Best Musical (losing to the equally beleaguered Fosse) and still makes appearances to this day. In fact, in a bit of brilliant synergy, it last dusted off last year for a multi-week run at the newly refurbished Ford’s Theatre.

4. Children of Eden (1991)
We’re not sure if the book of Genesis is the absolute worst source material on the planet, but we do know that it is in the running. But too ambitious to just lift one Bible story from it writer (or shall we say creator) Stephen Schwartz just went for it and decided to cram three narratives into two acts. So we get Adam & Eve AND Cain & Abel and Noah’s epic battle with the flood. Upon its release critics quickly seized upon its rather outrageous lyrics such as when God (or “Father” as he is known here) reminds the audience that until they spread their seed their life doesn’t amount to a “hill of beans.” After a horrible run on London’s West End the show never found itself on Broadway, but the became even more farcical when the original London cast album was found to be faulty due to “bronzing” which caused the disc to become totally useless after only a few spins.

5. Hunting of the Snark (1991)
1991 was quite the banner year for musical brain farts. This one has a less entertaining history, perhaps, but is still an absolute slam-dunk to make the list simply because it is based upon Lewis Carroll’s overly long nonsensical poem of the same name. Having first been reborn as a concert album featuring the likes of Art Garfunkle it was one Matt Batt who decided that a mega budgeted/special effects riddled version would be his ticket to the top. It wasn’t, obviously, as the show only lasted a few weeks in London and never ventured across the pond. The soundtrack is still available for purchase on the internet for those of you who remain curious about this curiosity.

We would also be remiss if we didn’t mention the aborted attempt to bring the Monica Lewinsky story to the stage. But if it took The Thief and the Cobbler 31 years to make it to the big screen then there is still reason enough to hold out hope.

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