We told you earlier this week about Darq Knight, a show that unofficially takes The Dark Knight and gives it the Rogers and Hammerstein treatment, but that's not Batman's first brush with musical theater... nor his most terrifying. Because, ten years ago this year, the Dark Knight was saved from a fate worse than even Joel Schumacher: A Broadway musical written by Bat Out Of Hell writer Jim Steinman and directed by Tim Burton. Yes, we have excerpts of the songs.
The musical was announced in December 1998, with Warner Bros. aiming to use their successful publishing/animation/movie franchise to conquer yet another medium. Melodramatic musician Steinman was to co-write the songs (alongside David Ives, who'd write the script), and buzz continued about the project's potential for the next six months or so, before things went very quiet. It wasn't that work wasn't continuing on the project - by this point officially called Batman: The Musical - just that it wasn't the top of anyone's list of priorities; Steinman, at this point busy on other rock operas (Garbo - The Musical, anyone?) would occasionally give interviews or quotes about the project's slow progress, but it was to all intents and purposes dead until 2002 saw Tim Burton being announced as being moments away from signing on as director... Something that he now vehemently denies ("I thought: 'Oh no - Batman On Ice!" he's told numerous reporters about his feelings on the subject). Nonetheless, the project was suddenly back on everyone's minds, and aimed for a 2004 preview. Until a little something called Batman Begins came along, and took the franchise in another, more serious, direction (To be fair, the critical and financial failures of Steinman's other musicals probably helped in the decision to bury the idea). So, what were we robbed of? Thanks to the internet, you don't really have to wonder - As well as recycling some of the songs from the musical for a third Bat Out Of Hell, Steinman leaked the demos for some of the music online, and the YouTube faithful did the rest:
Steinman had described his vision of the project as being similar to Burton's movies - dark, gothic and moody. Apparently, he forgot to think about that while writing the music, preferring to opt for his usual "overblown and melodramatic" form, instead. And yet, it's hard to deny the fact that just a little bit of Steinman might have made The Dark Knight that little bit zippier, especially with lyrics like the following, from the "touching" "We're Still The Children We Once Were":
Where's Mommy? Daddy? Where'd they go? They've left us here alone And with all the arts we've mastered And all the things we've known Who's going to take us home?
Admit it; you'd have loved to have seen Christian Bale growling his way through that, while Michael Caine looked embarrassed standing behind him.
The idea of superheroes in musicals is an ill-advised one that keeps coming up, whether it's the never-produced Captain America musical from the 1980s or the current money pit that is Julie Taymor's Spider-Man, but the relatively low key, powerless Batman is one of the few that could probably be pulled off onstage. While Batman's movie star may be high in the sky right now, all it takes is Chris Nolan refusing to do a Dark Knight sequel and the Taymor Spider-Man to become a hit, and this seemingly dead project could be born again. All we're hoping is that Steinman's score gets replaced. I mean, if Spider-Man gets U2, then surely a Batman musical could get REM or some other late '80s/early '90s icons, right...? Just, please: No Sting. (You can read more about the musical at The Dark Knight Of The Soul, a site devoted to what thankfully never was, including all of the Steinman demos.)