The Joker has left the building!
In 1998, Warner Bros. had been paying attention to the recent successes of their rival Disney putting Beauty and The Beast and The Lion King onstage, as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber's splashy take on Sunset Boulevard. Clearly movies-into-musicals were the next big thing, from their POV.
Meanwhile, American rock composer Jim Steinman's Tanz der Vampire (itself adapted from The Fearless Vampire Killers) was busy becoming an instant classic and huge hit in Vienna, Austria, with plans already in negotiation for an eventual transfer to Stuttgart, Germany. Warner looked at Tanz and its epic, postmodern/Gothic score, and decided to recruit Steinman for one of their potential forays into the theater world...
To helm a stage musical based on the Goddamn Batman.
In hindsight this seems like a blatantly ridiculous idea, but at the time it was taken quite seriously. Tim Burton was to direct. Ultimately, though, the plans fell through, following the failure of the badly Americanized Tanz adaptation Dance of the Vampires (which gained one of the abandoned Bat-songs), and Steinman packed off much of what he'd written to give to Meat Loaf as standalone pieces when the two reunited for Bat Out of Hell III.
However, a dedicated fan has preserved the demos recorded during the show's development. Listen at your own peril here.
This show, along with 1966's It's A Bird! It's A Plane! It's Superman!, rather suggests that the only thing more toxic to a musical (in America, at least- the aforementioned Tanz is a phenomenon in Europe and Japan, and Dracula: Entre l'Amour et La Mort did well in Canada) than vampires is superheroes. (Although Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark did manage to run for 4 years on Broadway...)
The story as can best be surmised is a combination of Burton's two Batman films, with the vengeful, brooding Batman protecting the terrified citizens of Gotham from the Joker's murderous antics while also tangling with glamorous kleptomaniac Catwoman. Max Schreck, the Corrupt Corporate Executive from Returns is also present, though in absence of the Penguin's plot from that film it's rather hard to guess where he fits into this adaptation. One of the main changes made to the general Bat-mythos, though, is that it ties Selina Kyle/Catwoman directly into his origin as well as the Joker, who (once again, as in Burton) is here retconned as the petty crook who gunned down Bruce Wayne's parents. Selina also witnessed the Waynes' deaths, as a frightened orphan child, and was struck by how quickly one can lose everything one has. Batman and Catwoman become full romantic partners as adults based on this common pain, and she ultimately dies in his arms as he tells her that they're "still the children [they] once were".
Demo recordings and other details about the production can be found here.
- Anti-Hero: Catwoman is thoroughly painted as one of these rather than a villainess, which makes her solo, "I Need All The Love I Can Get", an example of a...
- Bad Girl Song rather than a Villain Song
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Max Schreck, presumably. It's kind of hard to tell where he belongs in this thing, or if "In The Land Of The Pigs" was even his song.
- Crowd Song: "Gotham City", before it switches to Batman's solo "Graveyard Shift".
- Cut Song: Per usual for a Steinman production, it's made mostly of these, though with the exception of "Angels Arise" it's more fragments of trunk songs than the full things. "Graveyard Shift" includes bits of "Edging Into Darkness" from Steinman's 1970s musical version of The Confidence Man and "Nowhere Fast" from Streets of Fire, but also developed out of the original idea for Magda's solo in Tanz der Vampire (including the line about "the parents that I buried when I was just a child") before it was replaced by "Death Is Such an Odd Thing".
- The chorus of Catwoman's song ("And I need all the love I can get/And I need all the love that I can't get to") is more complicated: it appeared in Steinman's MTV rock opera version of Wuthering Heights through a cover of "More" by The Sisters of Mercy (a band he'd previously worked with as a Record Producer; "More" itself was co-written and co-produced by him and Andrew Eldritch), and Steinman borrowed not only part of "More"'s chorus, but also its guitar riff. (Talk about Self-Plagiarism...)
- Dark Is Not Evil: This Batman was intended as a good-guy analogue to Sweeney Todd or The Phantom of the Opera -- an outsider warped by the worst society has to offer and now avenging himself against it.
- Dating Catwoman: Literally. And apparently without them knowing each other's identities in civilian life rather than in costume.
- Department of Redundancy Department: "Come midnight's midnight/When the dark entwines with darkness..."
- Which is also the Ominous Latin Chanting in the opening number: "Nox Noctis Venit" (roughly "Night night comes"), "Tenebrae Tenebris Involvunt" ("the dark wraps the darkness").
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Catwoman.
- Final Love Duet: "We're Still The Children We Once Were"
- Follow the Leader
- Heroic Sacrifice: Catwoman again.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: The opening song.
Nox Noctis Venit
- Self-Plagiarism: Chock-full of examples of and sources for.
- Shout-Out: "Wonderful Toys" is full of these, and to apparently whatever Jim Steinman
thought the Joker's manic, rambling personality would come up withwanted to include. The references to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and José Jiménez are especially notable.
- Silly Love Songs: "Not Allowed To Love". Holy Romantic Plot Tumor, Batman!
- Take That: This project was the target of a very popular swipe at its very concept courtesy of a Batman Beyond episode in which Bruce and Terry attend a Batman musical.
Terry: It's schway!
- Timeshifted Actor: The child versions of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle and their older Batman and Catwoman counterparts.
- Villain Song: The Joker's song, naturally, but also "In The Land of the Pigs, The Butcher Is King".
- What Might Have Been
- Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: The Joker's Villain Song poses this question.