Villainy isn’t really a good thing… that is, unless you’re playing the part of the naughtiest character in a show! With their incredibly cutting lines, paired with some memorable outfits, these characters prove that sometimes it just feels good to be bad.
Detective Fix in Around the World in 80 Days by Annemarie Lewis Thomas, Jules Verne and Phil Willmott (US/UK)
Set in 1883, this delightful musical tells the story of Phileas Fogg and his servant, Passepartout, as they embark on a whistle-stop journey to satisfy a wager that they can circumnavigate the world in eighty days. With bandits in pursuit, nasty villains around every corner, and transport problems that force them to continue via hot air balloon (and performing elephant!), will they make the deadline?
The Appeal: With grit and perseverance, Detective Fix stalks Phileas Fogg and his trusty companion around the world in order to prove his suspicions are correct. Brilliant, fervent and uncompromising, Fix is the ultimate antagonist, relentless to the show’s last moment.
Evillene in The Wiz by William F. Brown and Charlie Smalls (US/UK)
This vibrant fantasy infuses L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with a dazzling mix of rock, gospel and soul music. With hit songs like “Ease on Down the Road,” “Be a Lion” and “Home,” The Wiz is a fun, modern reinvention of the American classic.
The Appeal: As her name suggests, Evillene is a deliciously evil part to play, terrifying in both her actions and appearance. Bombastic, vain and often hilarious, she stops the show with her rousing gospel number, “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News.”
Gleb Vaganov in Anastasia: The Musical by Terrence McNally, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (US/UK)
Be transported from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s, as a brave young woman sets out to discover the mystery of her past. Pursued by a ruthless Soviet officer determined to silence her, Anya enlists the aid of a dashing con man and a lovable ex-aristocrat. Together, they embark on an epic adventure to help her find home, love and family.
The Appeal: Handsome and deadly, Gleb Voganov is the son of one of the soldiers who shot the Romanovs. Unlike his father before him, however, he regrets only that one of the royals managed to escape. Stubborn and moralistic to the point of intolerance, Gleb provides great fodder for a strong actor with passion and a killer singing voice.
Grand High Witch in The Witches by David Wood and Roald Dahl (US/UK)
In this faithful adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic story, a boy and his grandmother defeat the Grand High Witch and her followers as the witches hold a conference in an English seaside hotel. During the struggle, the boy gets turned into a mouse. Unlike the hags who wear pointed hats and fly on broomsticks – these witches look very much like ordinary women, which aids in their deception.
The Appeal: With fantastic one-liners and a menacingly opulent human disguise, the Grand High Witch in this Roald Dahl classic combines many of the best aspects of being a villain.
Hades in Hadestown by Anaïs Mitchell (US/UK)
Following two intertwining love stories — that of young dreamers Orpheus and Eurydice, and that of immortal King Hades and Lady Persephone — this show invites you on a hell-raising journey to the underworld and back.
The Appeal: As a god of the underworld with his relationship falling apart, Hades has a lot going on, making him quite a complex villain to play. As an added bonus, he also rules with an iron fist and has an incredibly cold personality, all of which adds even more depth to this menacing character.
Herr Flick in ’Allo ’Allo by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft (US/UK)
Based on the hugely successful British television series, which ran for seven seasons, this uproarious comedy relates the adventures of a hapless café owner, Rene, in occupied France. You can see all of your favorite TV characters in the flesh, including Rene’s tone-deaf wife Edith, Major-General von Klinkerhoffen and the Gestapo officer Herr Flick!
The Appeal: From innuendo-filled dialogue to his peculiar methods of dealing with the various members of his team, Herr Flick adds laughs to our villain list — there’s no one quite as strange and unique to play on stage.
Jack Manningham in Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton (UK)
Jack Manningham is slowly, deliberately driving his wife Bella insane. He has almost succeeded when help arrives in the form of a former detective, Rough, who believes Manningham to be a thief and murderer.
The Appeal: Jack Manningham is one of the worst types of villains – the type you’d never suspect. Debonair and well mannered, he seems the perfect husband for gentle Bella. But appearances are deceptive; not only does he manipulate his wife to the point of insanity, he also delights in cruelty as he schemes to gain the most for himself.
Jud Fry in Oklahoma! by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Agnes de Mille and Lynn Riggs (US/UK)
In a Western territory just after the turn of the 20th century, a high-spirited rivalry between local farmers and cowboys provides a colorful background for Curly, a charming cowboy, and Laurey, a feisty farm girl, to play out their love story. Their romantic journey, as bumpy as a surrey ride down a country road, contrasts with the comic exploits of brazen Ado Annie and hapless Will Parker in a musical adventure embracing hope, determination and the promise of a new land.
The Appeal: Often seen as an outsider, Jud Fry is the stereotypical bad boy who feels misunderstood, which only feeds his obsessive feelings towards Laurey, the object of his unrequited love.
Marquise de Merteuil in Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Christopher Hampton and Choderlos de Laclos (US/UK)
A tale of seduction set in France among aristocrats before the revolution, this is a classic drama for exploring decadent sexuality, morals and manipulation played as the ultimate game, with tragic results.
The Appeal: Strong, fearless and the orchestrator of her own fate, Marquise de Merteuil is a powerhouse of a character. Upon her husband’s death, she manages to retain her social status through the careful manipulation of what is said and done by those around her.
Patrick Bateman in American Psycho by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Duncan Sheik (US/UK)
Based on the electrifying novel by Bret Easton Ellis, the musical tells the story of Patrick Bateman, a young and handsome Wall Street banker with impeccable taste and unquenchable desires. Patrick and his elite group of friends spend their days in chic restaurants, exclusive clubs and designer labels. But at night, Patrick takes part in a darker indulgence, and his mask of sanity is starting to slip…
The Appeal: He’s a young, successful and attractive man living a life entrenched in materialism, social expectation, with a little narcissism added in for the finishing touch. A truly gruesome role to play.
Plankton in The SpongeBob Musical by Kyle Jarrow and Tina Landau (US/UK)
The stakes are higher than ever in this dynamic stage musical, as SpongeBob and all of Bikini Bottom face the total annihilation of their undersea world. Chaos erupts. Lives hang in the balance. And just when all hope seems lost, a most unexpected hero rises up and takes centre stage. The power of optimism really can save the world!
The Appeal: Plankton makes for a funny and traditional villain. His motives are simple and he usually doesn’t want to cause harm, he just really wants more Bikini Bottom residents to visit his restaurant.
Queen Aggravain in Once Upon a Mattress by Mary Rodgers, Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Marshall Barer (US/UK)
Many moons ago in a far-off place, Queen Aggravain decreed no couples could marry until her son, Prince Dauntless, found a bride. Princesses came from far and wide to win the hand of the prince, but none could pass the impossible tests given to them by the Queen. That is, until the “shy” swamp princess, Winnifred the Woebegone, showed up.
The Appeal: Not only is Queen Aggravain an incredibly controlling and mean mother, but she’s also quite the dictator. Also, with all the challenges she sets for those wanting to take her son’s hand in marriage, it’s the perfect combination of fairy-tale villainy and total wipe-out.
Rev in Fat Ham by James Ijames (US/UK)
In this delectably comic, Pulitzer Prize-winning reinvention of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, an uproarious family barbecue instigates a compelling examination of love and loss, pain and joy. Juicy is a queer, Southern college kid, already grappling with some serious questions of identity, when the ghost of his father shows up in their backyard, demanding that Juicy avenge his murder.
The Appeal: Spiteful, swaggering and casually abusive, Juicy’s uncle/stepfather is a murderer, pigfarmer and pitmaster. Rev dominates the family barbecue with combination of charm, intimidation and cruelty, making this role a deliciously complex challenge for a talented actor.
Richard Warren in Golden Shield by Anchuli Felicia King (US/UK)
From international playwright Anchuli Felicia King comes a riveting work about loyalties, intrigue and the delicate art of translation. In this tense drama, two Chinese-American sisters lead a class action lawsuit to expose an American tech giant’s involvement with the Chinese government’s firewall, Golden Shield.
The Appeal: Richard Warren is a classically odious guy. The American executive, managing partner of Chen & Warren PLLC, is trying desperately to make a deal in China, and he doesn’t care whose life is destroyed in the process. Kinetic and scheming, Richard frantically scrambles to put out fires as things around him keep going wrong.
Tina Denmark in Ruthless! by Marvin Laird and Joel Paley (US/UK)
Eight-year-old Tina Denmark knows she was born to play Pippi Longstocking, and she will do anything to win the part in her school musical. From multiple murders to hidden identities, this musical brings drama to the backstage.
The Appeal: They say that the best things come in small packages, and the same could be said for the worst things too. Though only a young girl, Tina Denmark will clear any (human) obstructions in her way to get herself the fame and glory she feels she deserves.
The White Witch in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and Glyn Robbins (UK)
Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy embark on a magical mystery tour to the Land of Narnia through the wardrobe. There they encounter the wicked White Witch, representing the forces of evil, and the King of the Beasts, Aslan the lion, representing all that is good and right. The White Witch is destroyed, allowing good to triumph over evil in the time-honored way.
The Appeal: Equal parts beautiful and evil, The White Witch uses charm and manipulation to get those around her to do exactly as she wishes, without a care as to what happens to them in the process.
The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz (RSC Version) by L. Frank Baum, Harold Arlen, E. Y. Harburg, Herbert Stothart, Peter Howard, Larry Wilcox and John Kane (UK/US)
Follow the yellow brick road in this delightful stage adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s beloved tale, featuring the iconic musical score from the MGM film. The timeless tale, in which young Dorothy Gale travels from Kansas over the rainbow to the magical Land of Oz, continues to thrill audiences worldwide.
The Appeal: She’s green, she’s mean, and a little misunderstood too, but she’s the prime example of how classic witchy characters continue to strike fear into our hearts.
Photo: The Wizard of Oz and all related characters and elements © & TM Turner Entertainment Co. (s19)