Does the term “queer princess of hell” appeal to you? Are you looking for a show that will make you laugh and blush while also making you feel real feelings? Do you like adult animation, mind-blowing singing talent, and wacky antics? Well, come on down to the Hazbin Hotel, where the activities are chaotic and the people are eccentric.
Prime Video’s new animated series Hazbin Hotel started as a doodle and a dream. Bisexual creator Vivienne Medrano’s pet project, once a YouTube pilot in 2019, is now a full-blown extravaganza, jam-packed with colorful characters and a mega-talented cast. Perfect for anyone who enjoys shows like Harley Quinn — wild cartoons made for adults that center queer women. And before we get too far into it, in case you missed the word “singing” in the intro: This is a musical show. I just didn’t want you to get distracted by the opening lore drop with its biblically accurate angels, and then jump-scared by a song.
The show is about Charlie Morningstar, princess of hell, who has started the Hazbin Hotel as a sort of rehabilitation center. She wants to help souls ascend out of hell and into heaven to solve their overcrowding problem in a less violent way than the angels’ plan of… extermination. Has anyone ever ascended from hell to heaven before? No, no they have not. Does this bright-eyed optimist still believe with her entire hopeful heart that it will work? Yes, yes she does. The first song in the series sung by Charlie (voiced by the Broadway legend Erika Henningson) is called “Happy Day in Hell” and it captures her glass-half-full attitude despite her demonic surroundings. With her on this journey are a ragtag group of misfits: Her girlfriend, Vaggie (voiced by bisexual icon Stephanie Beatriz), Angel Dust (Blake Roman), a porn star who says he’s just there for the free rent, Husk (Keith David), a bartender who likes to play the grump, Kniffty (Kimiko Glen), a tiny chaotic maid who loves pain and stabbing bugs, and their benefactor, Alastor the Radio Demon (Amir Talai) who is just a little terrifying.
Other epic voices that show up throughout the series include but are not limited to Jeremy Jordan, Krystina Alabado, Jessica Vosk, Darren Criss, Shoba Narayan, Patina Miller, and THE Daphne Rubin-Vega.
In fact, in one of the first few episodes, Stephanie Beatriz and Daphne Rubin-Vega sing a duet which I found very exciting because they recently played girlfriends in the movie adaptation of In the Heights. It made my queer theater nerd heart sing (and option up).
Charlie is a great character, bubbly and joyful, whipping her long blonde ponytail around and wearing a cute red tux every day. Vaggie is more of a pessimist, putting on a surly demeanor, but still letting a smile slip when Charlie is being cute. They have one of my favorite dynamics, sometimes described as golden retriever/black cat. When the show starts, they’re already established as girlfriends, and even the most oblivious (and/or straight) person would know it by the time Vaggie was swinging around singing “I will be your armor” and “I’ll spend my life being your partner.”
The show so far is a blast with a large cast of dynamic and interesting characters. Nothing is quite as it seems in hell, and all the souls here are more than their sins. Also, all of the songs are next-level good. I’ve had “Happy Day in Hell” stuck in my head since I first heard it, and the song I mentioned that Stephanie Beatriz and Daphne Rubin-Vega sing is soul-crushingly beautiful. In the fourth episode there’s a song called “Poison” that’s another standout — for the visuals and the song itself.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the premiere screening of Hazbin Hotel here in New York. At the afterparty, some of the cast did performances, and it was truly amazing. What was even more amazing, though, is how much they all seemed to love each other. The last of the Hazbin team to perform was Vivienne Medrano herself, and the whole cast watched her with full heart-eyes. Some of them even shed a little tear as Vivienne sang “Rainbow Connection” as she reflected on this project finally coming to life. It’s a very Charlie Morningstar song, and there’s something really special about seeing people genuinely care about something they’ve created. And for this series, that love and dedication really shows.
I spent my entire childhood — quite literally kindergarten through twelfth grade — in Catholic school, being force-fed narratives about how very easy it is to be banished to hell. They told us that every little misstep or mistake is a sin, and, of course, how being gay is one of those missteps. And so, it’s very healing to see the Princess of Hell be a happy-go-lucky queer girl, living her best life with a girlfriend by her side. It’s like my friends and I used to joke: Maybe we’re going to hell, but at least we’ll be there together. (Can a gay girl get an amen?)
So come on down to the Hazbin Hotel, where everyone is welcome, baggage and all. The lovers, the dreamers, and me.
Hazbin Hotel is now streaming on Prime Video.