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Weekly Roundup: 4 Musical Parodies That Change the Story (While Staying Silly)

This week on the Strop: Clever musical parodies that range from exceedingly simple to grand performances.

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Musical parodies are not new. They’ve been around for ages, and people like Weird Al Yankovic have made entire careers based on making these parodies. And since the rise of YouTube and similar sites, it’s become easier to share them — and the subjects they now touch upon range drastically. Sports. Minecraft. The Office. And, of course, Broadway musicals. Search anything on YouTube and you’re bound to find somebody, somewhere, who has found some Disney song, adjusted the lyrics and made fun of the topic. Because, in the end, that’s what musical parodies are here for: to have fun. The following are examples of parodies that range from exceedingly simple to grand performances — but what they all have in common is that they’re clever with how they change their songs to tell a new, or old, story.

1. “The Point of No Returns”

The Phantom of the Opera, based on Gaston Leroux’s book of the same name, is the longest-running Broadway musical of all time. It’s the timeless tale of a disfigured man who lives in the catacombs under a Paris opera house, emotionally manipulating the beautiful and musically-gifted Christine by pretending to be her father back from the dead in order to become her mentor and get close to her. Nearing the end of the show, the two sing “The Point of No Return.” It is the culmination of the Phantom’s plans: He’s murdered a man so that he and Christine can perform together, with Christine finally choosing to love him. It’s the Phantom’s final love song. It’s the moment when Christine makes a choice. It’s them not-so-vaguely singing about getting it on. And it’s the song right before the climax of the entire musical.

But if you add an “s” to the end of the title, it clearly becomes a story about a woman with buyer’s remorse being told by the sale associate that all sales are final and they have a no-returns policy. Part of Shitty Broadway’s Spoopy Broadway performances, Curt Mega and Mary Kate Wiles turn this seductive song into one of the strangest, most satisfying parodies. Mostly because they really don’t change that many lyrics. They just add an “s” to “return” and change the setting from an opera house to a clothing store. It’s these simple changes that make a huge difference and really exemplify that parody doesn’t need to have completely different lyrics — it just needs a different context. So, if you’ve ever needed to watch a woman sing a song about seduction while putting on a flying squirrel onesie, now’s the time.

2. “Let It Go”

Since 2014, performer Malinda Kathleen Reese has been putting popular songs through multiple layers of Google Translate and then singing the results. “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen was the first one she did and it’s probably one of the best examples of how, even when given the same words, proper translation can make a big difference. At its heart, Reese’s rendition of “Let It Go” is still Elsa singing about being free, but she’s missing a couple of words. Some lyrics stay more or less the same, and the cold still doesn’t bother her after all. But then, each time she belts out “give up” instead of “let it go,” it feels like the perfect song to sing in the shower after a long day. It’s simple, but it’s also probably the only place where you’ll hear a Disney princess enthusiastically tell you to just “give up” with a huge grin on her face and not be reprimanded or proven wrong for it. It’s silly. It’s unexpected. And, most importantly, it’s fun.  


3. “Sesame Street: Les Mousserables”


Because it’s never too early to teach your preschooler about the Paris Uprising of 1832. Cookie Monster stars as Jon Bon-Bon who finds and takes a bunch of cookies. Unlike in the musical Les Miserables, Jon Bon-Bon does not have to go to jail for 19 years. Instead, he has to learn that his friends are upset that he won’t share. There are a lot of adult subjects in Les Miserables that are not appropriate for Sesame Street, but it’s great to watch Cookie Monster and others dress as French revolutionaries and make it preschool-friendly. There’s something mesmerizing about seeing “I Dreamed a Dream” become a song about a mother sad she has no cookies to give her daughter instead of a song about a mother who literally starts selling her body in order to provide for her child. Obviously, these are things that would go over a three-year-old’s head, but it’s what makes Sesame Street admirable and keeps it going after all these years: They know they can appeal to broad audiences while simultaneously being family-friendly. And, besides, where else will you see Cookie Monster leading the way while the revolutionaries behind him sing “One Day S’more?”

4. “Twisted” from Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier 

You know Aladdin? That Disney movie about the thief boy who meets a genie and gets the girl? You ever wonder what Ja’far’s side of the story was? How’d he get to be royal vizier? How’d he meet Iago? What if he had a really good reason for everything he did and was secretly the hero of the entire movie? Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier aims to answer and prove all those burning questions you’ve had. The musical itself is a parody of both Aladdin and Wicked (the musical about how the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz is just misunderstood). The musical is performed by Starkid Productions, who famously got their start when their original production of A Very Potter Musical went viral in 2009. Since then, they have made two more Harry Potter musicals, one about the DC Universe, one about Star Wars, and even one about the Oregon Trail video game. Twisted is arguably one of, if not their best, musical. 

It stars Dylan Saunders as Ja’far. Per the musical, we learn about how he started his career as an idealistic young man entering politics because he wanted to make changes to better everyone. However, when he couldn’t deliver his promises due to powers outside of his control, the city turned on him and decided that he was their enemy. The citizens constantly remind him that “it’s all your fault Ja’far” because he wasn’t able to fix the socio-economic inequality and other such issues. At one point, when everyone else has officially turned against him, he’s comforted by other classic Disney villains — Ursula from The Little Mermaid, Scar from The Lion King, Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, and others — as they tell their untold sides of the story. However, because they were not the victors, their sides of the stories were never told and “the story that is drawn is twisted.” By the end of the song, Ja’far comes to the decision that while he may not be remembered as the hero, he’s going to do what’s right. Stories like Twisted take the saying “every villain is a hero in their own mind” to the extreme. By giving these villains their moment to tell their story and playing with point of view, it completely changes a tale that most people are otherwise familiar with. Also, it’s fun to watch all the classic Disney villains come together to tell their sides of the story — and then turn on Cruella because she just wanted to kill puppies, and even they can’t condone that.