So Bad It's Horrible/Theatre

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Theater is a hard art form to pull off. If done well, it comes off as enjoyable and masterfully done. Then there's the examples which calling them High school worthy would be an insult to high school productions, especially seeing as some high school productions are fantastic.

Important Notes:

  1. A production can still be running, doesn't mean it doesn't belong here. As long as they draw universal hatred from critics and audiences alike, they belong here.
  2. Merely being offensive in its subject matter or a flop is not sufficient. Hard as it is to imagine at times, there is a market for all types of deviancy, no matter how small a niche it is. It has to fail to appeal even to that niche to qualify as this. (If you're unsure whether it belongs here or not, visit the discussion page and give us your input.)
  3. It isn't horrible because a caustic critic panned it. There has to be legit reasons for it being too awful to even exist.
Examples (more-or-less in alphabetical order):
  • On the annals of legendary musical theater flops, there is probably no one bigger than 1988's Carrie: The Musical. The original 1988 production was filled with problems regarding script, production, and costuming. Songs were cut between presentations, which didn't cull the most awful among the remaining ones; the script was riddled with plot holes (the biggest one being the nature of Carrie's powers); special effects failures were at large; the production values were incredibly campy and tacky; and even with genuinely talented performers (The actress interpreting Carrie won the Best Broadway Debut award in said year's Theatre World Award), the overall awfulness overshadowed them. Its Broadway run lasted for about 5 performances (after previews) before shutting out, losing around $8 million. Carrie's infamy was so big that it became a byword for horrible musicals, and it lent its name to a 1992 book about Broadway flops [dead link]. You can see for yourself with this analysis with genuine footage of the Broadway production and a previous, equally failed, British staging. A very retooled version of this show was premiered in 2012, to much better reception.
  • Acclaimed company Cirque Du Soleil are known for their usually well-reviewed productions, and were in negotiations to launch an off-Broadway resident show in the wake of their success with their seasonal production Wintuk in New York. The result was Banana Shpeel, a production so bad it didn't even appeal to die-hard fans of Cirque, or even Guy Laliberte himself. The show was a twist on vaudeville humour, and promised a mix of slapstick and acrobatics. Instead, the show consisted of an annoying Jerkass running around shouting nonsense, lame bathroom humour, stupid slapstick gags about being spat on or slapped, with maybe two Cirque-ish acts. The show flopped in its tryout run in Chicago and even after a substantial retool opened to condemnation from audiences and critics. Hoping to spark interest, a tour was attempted, but it made it only to one stop in New York, and a Canadian stop before being canceled altogether. With Criss Angel Believe getting panned hardcore, ZAIA struggling to sell tickets in China, and OVO and Viva Elvis getting mixed receptions in North America, this further ran Cirque's reputation into the ground. (In fact, thanks to the retool's delays Banana Shpeel and OVO [a tour] were dueling shows in New York; OVO opened first and would receive far better reviews.) Thankfully the company managed to make a comeback creatively with 2010's Totem, and even made a happy return to New York with a far better-received show, Zarkana, in 2011.
  • One would think that a stage musical based off of The Lord of the Rings would be a recipe for success, right? Not so, if the 2006 production was any indication. After being unable to find a suitable British theatre to mount the production, the producers (who had spent an estimated $27 million on elaborate effects, licensing fees and rotating sets) decided to stage a test run in Toronto, Canada. The reviews, however, were scathing. Despite being scored by the film's composer (Howard Shore) and featuring a cast of heavyweight dramatic actors, the musical (which ran almost four hours long) was a plodding, confusing mess that haphazardly cut out large chunks of the source material (even though the musical was--again--almost four hours long). The rest was filled with overwrought narration, hammy performances and ridiculous effects (the Balrog is represented by a large tissue-paper blow-up doll that is backed by wind blowing into the audience's faces). The producers promised Toronto's mayor that "The Nerds Would Come" [dead link] - in the end, the show was panned by critics and audiences, closed down after five months (despite the producers promising the show would run much, much longer) and resulted in a financial loss for both the producers (who opened the show in London a year later, to the exact same result) and the city of Toronto.
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera had quite a few mockbusters in the wake of its success, but none could be as painful as a 1991 Florida production which hoped to trick people by using a similar poster design to the Webber production. The show contained painfully bad writing with predictably bad songs, topped by a ridiculous ending. It was actually filmed and released on video, getting the same reception, perhaps even worse.
  • Back in the 1800s, someone made a production called The Play Without An "A", the script being made without words with an "A" in it. The end result was really difficult to perform. Nowadays it might be considered So Bad It's Good, but it was released in France at the time when everyone was very high society and thought humor was impudent and disgraceful. The play only ran once, but the audience was so disgusted by it they rioted and stopped the play. It hasn't seen the light of day since.
  • The first version of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. The second version of the show has fans, opened to lukewarm reception and fits on the other end of the spectrum; however the first issue of the show suffered from severe bouts of Adaptation Decay and Critical Research Failure, glacial pacing, technical issues galore, craptacular music and terrifyingly wooden acting. It also had the most cringe-worthy example of a Greek Chorus which consisted of a group of teenagers writing a comic book. Audiences roundly condemned it and it didn't fare much better with critics either. It never saw the light of day, and was limited to previews, the majority of which had massive technical issues (one incident involving Spider-Man's wire harness breaking and falling a considerable height). Taymor was fired and Bono & The Edge threatened to disown it unless it was retooled considerably. Which it was, and the result was much better received and more popular with audiences and critics. Critics still hated it, but it has fans and continues to attract more people today.