Musicals and murderers may not seem like a natural fit, but a number of them have managed to find their audiences. "Sweeney Todd" and "Assassins," both by Stephen Sondheim, are considered classics and are frequently revived. Last season on Broadway, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder," a dark comedy about a serial killer, took home the Tony Award for new musical and is still running in New York.
But a musical about Charles Manson? The former cult leader who is serving a life sentence in a California prison is still a touchy subject, at least in the U.S. In Germany, a new stage musical about the convicted killer recently opened and provides a glimpse into Manson's failed music career and his relationship with his followers who became known as the Manson family.
"Charles Manson: Summer of Hate – The Musical" opened on Friday at the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg. Billed as a "musical trip between L.A. and the Death Valley," the production features songs in English and spoken dialogue in German.
The production was created by Stefan Pucher, Christopher Uhe and Susanne Meister. Actor Jörg Pohl plays Manson, and is supported by a cast of seven other performers who incarnate his hippie commune. The musical also features live music from the German band Trümmer.
Manson was influenced by a number of pop music bands, including the Beatles, whose song "Helter Skelter" provided him with his apocalyptic vision of the universe. In 1969, members of the Manson family killed actress Sharon Tate and four others, followed shortly thereafter by the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.
Members of the Manson family were convicted of the murders and have repeatedly been denied parole since their incarceration. Manson was denied parole for a 12th time in 2012.
Hamburg has become a popular destination for new and recent musicals. "Rocky," based on the 1976 movie, opened in the German city two years ago before transferring to Broadway.
The Manson musical isn't the only homicide-themed show on the theater-world radar. "American Psycho," based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel, opened in London last year and is expected to bow on Broadway in the near future. An off-Broadway production at New York's Second Stage Theatre was abruptly called off last month.