In 1998, Warner Bros. had been paying attention to the recent successes of their rival Disney putting Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King onstage, as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber's splashy take on Sunset Boulevard. Clearly movies-into-musicals were the next big thing, from their POV.
Meanwhile, American rock composer Jim Steinman's Tanz Der Vampire (itself adapted from The Fearless Vampire Killers) was busy becoming an instant classic and huge hit in Vienna, Austria, with plans already in negotiation for an eventual transfer to Stuttgart, Germany. Warner looked at Tanz and its epic, postmodern/Gothic score, and decided to recruit Steinman for one of their potential forays into the theater world...
To helm a musical based on the Goddamn Batman.
In hindsight this seems like a blatantly ridiculous idea, but at the time it was taken quite seriously. Tim Burton was to direct. Ultimately, though, the plans fell through, following the failure of the badly Americanized Tanz adaptation Dance of the Vampires (which gained one of the abandoned Bat-songs). It has since become one of the more infamous examples of What Could Have Been in both the musical and Batman communities.
The story as can best be surmised is a combination of Burton's two Batman films, with the vengeful, brooding Batman protecting the terrified citizens of Gotham from the Joker's murderous antics while also tangling with glamorous kleptomaniac Catwoman. Max Schreck, the Corrupt Corporate Executive from Returns is also present, though in absence of the Penguin's plot from that film it's rather hard to guess where he fits into this adaptation. One of the main changes made to the general Bat-mythos, though, is that it ties Selina Kyle/Catwoman directly into his origin as well as the Joker, who (once again, as in Burton) is here retconned as the petty crook who gunned down Bruce Wayne's parents. Selina also witnessed the Waynes' deaths, as a frightened orphan child, and was struck by how quickly one can lose everything one has. Batman and Catwoman become full romantic partners as adults based on this common pain, and she ultimately dies in his arms as he tells her that they're "still the children [they] once were".
Demo recordings and other details about the production can be found here.
This work contains examples of (or rather, would have contained examples of):
- Adaptation Origin Connection: As in Batman (1989), the musical would have made it so that the Joker was the criminal who orphaned Bruce Wayne by shooting his parents. In addition, the musical was planned to establish that Catwoman was an orphan who witnessed the Waynes getting shot.
- Anti-Hero: Catwoman is thoroughly painted as one of these rather than a villainess.
- Bad Girl Song: Due to Catwoman's antihero status, her solo "I Need All the Love I Can Get" is closer to this rather than a straight up Villain Song.
- Cloudcuckoolander: The Joker. In his Villain Song, he goes off on bizarre tangents about things like Captain Hook and the Lost Boys (a recurring bit of Author Appeal for Steinman) and randomly references everything from The Rocky Horror Picture Show to Eminem.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Max Schreck, presumably. It's kind of hard to tell where he belongs in this thing, or if "In The Land Of The Pig" was even his song.
- Crowd Song: "Gotham City", before it switches to Batman's solo "Graveyard Shift".
- Dark Is Not Evil: This Batman was intended as a good-guy analogue to Sweeney Todd or The Phantom of the Opera—an outsider warped by the worst society has to offer and now avenging himself against it.
- Dating Catwoman: Literally. And apparently without them knowing each other's identities in civilian life rather than in costume as is usual in Bat-stories.
- Department of Redundancy Department: "Come midnight's midnight/When the dark entwines with darkness..."
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Catwoman in Batman's after a climactic battle with the Joker.
- Final Love Duet: "We're Still The Children We Once Were" starts out as a duet between Batman and Catwoman, before turning into a quartet with their younger selves.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Catwoman again.
- Nocturnal Crime: Batman's song "Graveyard Shift" has the Caped Crusader address that the worst crimes tend to happen at night.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: The opening song.Nox Noctis VenitNox Noctis VenitTenebrae Tenebris InvolvuntTenebrae Tenebris InvolvuntSalva Nos, DomineSalva Nos, Domine
- Painful Rhyme: Lamspshaded in "Wonderful Toys."Joker: From the halls of MontezumaTo the shores of Timbuktumah...Eugh... Timbuktumah? Stop me before I rhyme again!
- Shout-Out: "Wonderful Toys" is full of these, and to apparently whatever Jim Steinman
thought the Joker's manic, rambling personality would come up withwanted to include. The reference to The Rocky Horror Picture Show is especially notable.
- Silly Love Songs: "Not Allowed To Love". Holy Romantic Plot Tumor, Batman!
- Take That!: This project was the target of a very popular swipe at its very concept courtesy of a Batman Beyond episode in which Bruce and Terry attend a Batman musical.Terry: It's schway!Bruce: It's schwarbage.
- Timeshifted Actor: The child versions of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle and their older Batman and Catwoman counterparts.
- Villain Song: The Joker's song, naturally, but also "In The Land Of The Pig, The Butcher Is King".
- Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: The Joker's Villain Song poses this question (and is the Trope Namer).