Dramatic (non-campy) science fiction musicals?
May 25, 2012 5:00 PM   Subscribe

Are there any scifi musicals that aren't comedies?

For scifi comedies, there's Little Shop of Horrors and arguably Rocky Horror Picture Show. But what about non-campy scifi musicals? Do they exist? If so, can someone tell me some titles and/or authors?

posted by lemoncakeisalie to Media & Arts (32 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

There was the legendary Via Galactica.
posted by steinsaltz at 5:07 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

There was a concept album version of "War of the Worlds" but it's all music, not a musical. There's also The American Astronaut which does have some humor, but is also dark and gritty and just an amazingly inventive piece of science fiction filmmaking, one of my favorite movies of any genre.
posted by contraption at 5:10 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if you'd consider it non-campy, but Reop! The Genetic Opera was quite pleasing to a non musically inclined person like me.
posted by Twain Device at 5:11 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

steinsaltz, I completely forgot about Via Galactica! That's a much better suggestion than mine, since JW's WoW is not really a musical.
posted by RichardP at 5:12 PM on May 25, 2012

Twain Device, Repo! is the definition of campy. :D I love musicals, and I like campy, but I was craving some serious scifi musical.

Does anyone know if lyrics can be found for Via Galactica?

American Astronaut looks cool. Thanks!
posted by lemoncakeisalie at 5:19 PM on May 25, 2012

The episode Brigadoom of the TV series Lexx.
posted by drdanger at 5:20 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

It has been awhile since I watched it, so I couldn't quite remember how much camp was involved. It is possible that the level of camp was so high that we rounded the universe and came right back to non-campy.
posted by Twain Device at 5:21 PM on May 25, 2012

There's always The Protomen, the Megaman rock opera. It sounds pretty campy, but is played straight.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:22 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tod Machover wrote an opera based on Philip K. Dick's VALIS.
posted by morganw at 5:28 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's beyond bizarre, and not exactly a musical (I mean it's kinda music oriented, but no real singing) but the Flaming Lips made a movie: Christmas on Mars.
posted by piedmont at 5:39 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Handmaid's Tale was made into a stellar opera. Which features the best use of Amazing Grace I've ever come across. I do remember it being pretty challenging listening though. Poul Ruders did the score.
posted by Gygesringtone at 5:48 PM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Philip Glass's The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 is based on one of Doris Lessing's science fiction novels, and they're definitely not comedies.
posted by zadcat at 5:59 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I hesitate to mention it because yeah, it's campy, but you might like Bat Boy The Musical. It's not a comedy.
posted by Wordwoman at 6:12 PM on May 25, 2012

Wordwoman, I actually saw Bat Boy when MIT put it on. It was creepy, and I liked it, but it wasn't terribly memorable. :)

These are all good suggestions, thanks!
posted by lemoncakeisalie at 6:20 PM on May 25, 2012

Let me add that operas are fine - I love opera!
posted by lemoncakeisalie at 6:20 PM on May 25, 2012

You probably know about it and it's realfi rather than scifi, but you still might like Doctor Atomic.
posted by notquitemaryann at 6:41 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

There was a musical stage production of Metropolis back in 1989. It starred Brian Blessed as John Freeman. I never saw it, but I did wind up with a copy of the cast recording through a random chain of events. Obviously it wasn't a huge success, but it was at least better than what you might imagine. No camp at all.
posted by Lokheed at 6:55 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I.. uh.. hate to mention it (really!), but I think the Star Wars Holiday Special, yes a musical, wasn't meant to be so goddamn awful
posted by edgeways at 6:58 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Let me add that operas are fine - I love opera!

There is a wikipedia article on Science-fiction Opera, mainly consisting of a list of works in the genre. Many have been listed here already but some of the others look interesting. For example:
  • Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) Il mondo della luna (The World of the Moon), 1777
  • Leoš Janáček (1854-1928): The Makropulos Affair (based on the play by Karel Čapek), Premiered 1926 and The Excursions of Mr. Brouček to the Moon and to the 15th Century
  • Lorin Maazel (1930– ) 1984 (based on the book by George Orwell)
  • Tod Machover (1953– ) Valis (1987) (based on the book by Philip K. Dick)

posted by flug at 7:38 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here is a list of sci-fi musicals, operas, and plays - again, some already mentioned here but some not.
posted by flug at 7:44 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Heavy Metal
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:46 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh man of course (head smack) Rock and Rule .. Cheap Trick, Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Earth Wind and Fire...
posted by edgeways at 8:27 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Actually, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog kinda fits this - scifi/fantasy, musical, tragic ending... Not a stage musical though.
posted by maryr at 8:32 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

If Philip Glass is your cup of tea, his 1000 Airplanes on the Roof might appeal. I don't believe it's been professionally filmed, and I'm not finding any performances on YouTube... hrm. See its brief Wikipedia page, for what it's worth. Glass describes it as "a science fiction music drama," which makes it eligible for your criteria, but it's far from being a space opera opera — it's a wee human-scale drama about the psychological experience of a modern-day earth person who has an alien encounter.
posted by mumkin at 10:30 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Slough Feg's Traveller is an (incredible) heavy metal concept album based on the 1970's sci-fi RPG. The lyrics are delivered in the first person by distinct characters, so maybe it counts as a rock opera...
posted by vorfeed at 11:52 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Karl-Birger Blomdahl wrote an opera called Aniara which premiered in 1959. It takes place on a space ark rescuing what is left of humanity after an ecological disaster on Earth. The ship veers off course and the master computer Mima malfunctions, leaving the passengers in chaos and despair. Some audio excerpts are on YouTube.

Janacek's Vec Makropulos, or The Makropulos Case, referenced above, was revived at the Met just a few weeks ago. It was one of the highlights of the season, featuring soprano Karita Mattila as the diva Emilia Marty, who possesses mysterious knowledge of an obscure law case dating back almost a century. As the story develops, it turns out [SPOILER ALERT] that Emilia is actually Elina Makropulos, the daughter of a 16th century alchemist who tested a youth potion on her. She has lived for over 300 years and now is in desperate search of the lost formula so she may take another dose.

The Met production sadly was not filmed for the company's "HD" series, but here's a clip from another staging of the work, the final scene of the piece featuring soprano Anja Silja as the now-elderly Emilia Marty.
posted by La Cieca at 12:06 AM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Janelle Monae's Metropolis Suite and Archandroid are about the rebellious cyborg Cyndi Mayweather, who has fled into the past in order to escape punishment for falling in love. She ends up in an insane asylum.
posted by spunweb at 3:00 AM on May 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

L. Ron Hubbard, Chick Corea, Stanley Clark, and some other Scientologist musicians made a compilation album to Battlefield Earth called Space Jazz. It wasn't meant to be campy.
posted by hydrophonic at 7:47 AM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is incredible! Thank you for all the suggestions! They're coming at me faster than I can check them out!
posted by lemoncakeisalie at 11:31 AM on May 26, 2012

If you happen to understand Japanese or can find subtitled video, the all-female musical troupe Takarazuka has done scifi stuff: looks like this year they've doneLegend of the Galactic Heroes.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:15 AM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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