Jammin' Jukebox Musicals
Updated: Nov 27, 2020
In these trying times, most of us theatre fans are turning to our favourite shows for comfort.
When I’m in need of a smile (or a rockin’ tune to workout to), I always find myself turning to the tried and true jukebox musical!
A jukebox musical is a musical featuring songs which were pre-existing, usually from the pop/rock genre. These musicals can either have an original plot with these tunes worked in, or tell the story of the artist who originally wrote or recorded them. Jukebox musicals are usually upbeat and guaranteed to make you leave the theatre singing and dancing!
These shows also happen to have bangin’ soundtracks that are perfect background music for sitting out and enjoying the summer sun (or screlting in the shower)!
Now, jukebox musicals can get a bit of a bad rap - often for not being ‘original’ enough, or being ‘light’ in terms of plot.
I once had a professor turn to me and say, “This isn’t Shakespeare, Jocelyn” while discussing one of my favourite jukebox shows.
But I LOVE jukebox musicals!
Going to the theatre doesn’t always need to be a deep experience, it can just be FUN! These shows are always a rockin’ good time! And most of them have moving and heartwarming stories attached.
The way I see it, let people like what they like.
Jukebox musicals also provide the incredible opportunity to introduce people who may not go see musical theatre to this amazing art form!
One of many examples is taking my Dad (who has patiently sat through musicals that were NOT his thing) , a massive MeatLoaf fan, to see Bat Out of Hell for his birthday. This is a show that brings the rock and rollers into a classic theatre setting and marries the two genres.
I also think that the use of pre-existing songs allow audience members to connect to and understand the story better, instead of absorbing new songs, lyrics, and styles at once.
Using Bat as an example again, a chuckle went through the audience during the opening riff of Paradise by the Dashboard Light. Anyone who had heard that song before knew EXACTLY what was going to happen next, and there’s so much unity in that.
Another amazing thing about jukebox musicals are how they have started almost a spin-off genre in the “bio-musical”, where stories of music industry legends are being told onstage set to their music! I am a massive fan of this genre because it’s such a wonderful way to pay tribute to our greats while using music that has a universal impact.
For example, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical tells the story of Carole King, and the story arc of a plucky teenage girl from Brooklyn to international sensation is one of the best on Broadway. Not to mention the fact that most people don’t know the story behind the creation of their favourite song, or much about the artist themself. One of the great things is hearing a song begin and having a moment of “Wow, I didn’t know they wrote this!”
Naturally, we couldn’t ramble through a post about jukebox musicals without sharing some of our all time favourites!
Make sure to leave a comment sharing your favourite jukebox musical!
Our Favourite Jukebox Musicals:
Green Day meets the Broadway stage in the punk rock opera American Idiot!
Featuring songs from the concept album of the same name and other tunes, this musical tells the story of three friends trying to escape suburbia and find the meaning of life in the big city.
CRUEL INTENTIONS: THE MUSICAL
Cruel Intentions is based on the 1999 film of the same name. It follows step-siblings Sebastian Valmont and Kathryn Mertueil and their sinister bet to destroy two of their more innocent classmates. The musical has a score featuring many 90s hits such as No Scrubs, Bittersweet Symphony and I Want It That Way.
JAGGED LITTLE PILL
You guessed it, this show is built around Alanis Morrisette’s album of the same name!
Jagged Little Pill follows the Healy family.
The show features songs from the titular album, Morrisette’s extensive discography, as well as two new songs written just for the production.
You don’t have to be a theatre fan to recognize the name of this musical filled with ABBA tunes!
Mamma Mia tells the story of Sophie, a young girl raised by a single mother, who is trying to find her father before her wedding day. When her three potential fathers show up, the world turns upside down.
This musical is jam-packed with ABBA hits such as Dancing Queen, Super Trouper, and Does Your Mother Know?
ROCK OF AGES
Rock of Ages is about two things: love, and the power of rock and roll!
It tells the story of two young people, Drew and Sherri who come to the Strip in search of fame and end up finding something much more important.
With a score featuring the best hits of the 80s, it’s Nothing But A Good Time!
Our Favourite Bio-Musicals:
BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL
Beautiful follows the story of Carole King, from her humble beginnings as a teenage songwriter from Brooklyn, to the global music sensation she is today. The musical begins with King breaking into the music industry, focusing on her personal and professional relationship with Gerry Goffin, and the beginning of her solo career.
Featuring hits originally recorded by Aretha Franklin, The Drifters, and The Shirelles, Beautiful leaves the audience realizing exactly how many songs were penned by Goffin and King as well as their competition and close friends, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
Jersey Boys tracks the formation, success, and break-up of the iconic Four Seasons.
The narration is split between the band members and is told documentary-style, sharing how they met, their climb to success, and ends with their induction into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.
The show features all the hits you expect from this fabulous group including Oh, What A Night,
Big Girls Don’t Cry, and Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.
Motown is based off of Berry Gordy’s autobiography: To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown. It focuses on Berry’s career - the foundation of Motown records, his discovery of incredible talents, and the friendships that developed along the way.
The score is made up of a variety of tunes from the Motown catalogue, featuring tunes from Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, and The Jackson Five.
ON YOUR FEET!
On Your Feet features Gloria Estefan and Emilio Estefan and follows their crossover into mainstream music. It focuses on Gloria’s family and her early years, when she meets Emilio and joins his group The Miami Latin Boys (which became The Miami Sound Machine). Emilio convinces Gloria to pursue her dreams, and together they work to move into popular music while keeping their Latin roots. A powerful story about love, family, and overcoming all odds, this show will bring you to your feet.
The score features the best of The Miami Sound Machine and Gloria Estefan’s own catalogue such as Dr. Beat, Conga, and Coming Out of the Dark.
The most recent of the bio-musicals, Tina celebrates the life and career of Tina Turner from her humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee to rock and roll icon. The show covers her tumultuous relationship with Ike Turner, how she breaks free from the chains of an abusive relationship, and finally, comes into her own as a successful solo artist.
The show is full of Tina’s greatest hits, such as Proud Mary, What’s Love Got To Do With It, and The Best.
Didn't see your favourite jukebox musical listed?
Let me know by leaving a comment below!
Previously Published on Break A Leg