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Best Jukebox Musicals

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Published on: Jul 1, 2022
Last Updated on: Mar 30, 2024
By: Kathryn Willingham
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Neil-Simon-MJ-Musical

Jukebox Musicals

A jukebox musical is a musical that uses pre-existing songs rather than original music created for the show. There are many nuances, but these musicals usually come in one of two forms:

1.     The biographical musical, a musical that follows a musician or band and normally tells the story of the person or group’s rise to success, complications of fame or circumstance, and uses their popular music to showcase their ultimate impact on our cultural history. Jersey Boys, which tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is a hugely successful example of this. It ran for over 11 years on Broadway and can still be seen Off-Broadway.   

2.     The original story, when pre-existing songs are used and told within the framework of an entirely original plot. Mamma Mia! is an example of this type of musical - it ran on Broadway for 14 years, is still running on the West End, and is a popular movie franchise. It uses popular ABBA songs like “Dancing Queen,” “Thank You for the Music,” and of course “Mamma Mia” as it tells the story of a young woman planning her wedding while trying to find her real father so he can walk her down the aisle.  Mamma Mia! is often credited for the rise in popularity of jukebox musicals over the last 20 years. 

A mainstay of musical theatre, there are usually a handful (and sometimes even a majority) of jukebox musicals running on Broadway at any given time. Here’s what shows are on right now!

JUKEBOX MUSICALS CURRENTLY RUNNING ON BROADWAY

And-Juliet-Stephen-Sondheim

& JULIET

& JULIET with music by Max Martin and book by David West Read plays at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre after a hit run on the West End. This new musical reimagines the story of Romeo and Juliet, asking what might have happened if Juliet didn’t end it all over Romeo. Now she has a fresh start and a second chance. Filled with pop hits like “Roar,” “Larger Than Life,” “Baby One More Time,” and “Since You Been Gone,” The Guardian called it, “a fun feminist makeover…with a great pop soundtrack.”

A-Beautiful-Noise-Broadhurst

A BEAUTIFUL NOISE, THE NEIL DIAMOND MUSICAL

A BEAUTIFUL NOISE, THE NEIL DIAMOND MUSICAL runs at the Broadhurst Theatre with a book by Anthony McCarten and score featuring Neil Diamond hits like “Sweet Caroline,” “America,” and “Cracklin’ Rosie.” It is directed by Michael Mayer, who has previously directed musicals like Spring Awakening, Head Over Heels, and American Idiot. The show follows the life and career of Neil Diamond and comes to Broadway after an out of town run at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theater.

Hell's Kitchen at the Shubert Theatre

HELL'S KITCHEN

HELL’S KITCHEN runs at the Shubert Theatre after its sold-out run off-Broadway at the Public Theater. Inspired by Alicia Keys’ childhood in Hell’s Kitchen, the musical has music and lyrics by Alicia Keys, a book by Kristoffer Diaz, direction by Michael Greif, and choreography by Camille A. Brown. The Guardian said this “jukebox musical is a marvel…[it] brings the house down.” It includes iconic songs like “Girl on Fire,” “If I Ain't Got You,” “No One,” and “Empire State of Mind.”

Neil-Simon-MJ-Musical

MJ: THE MUSICAL

MJ: THE MUSICAL follows the making of Michael Jackson’s 1992 Dangerous World Tour and has a book written by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage. MJ includes hits like “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” “Beat It,” “Smooth Criminal,” and “Thriller.” One of the first new musicals to open after the pandemic, MJ started performances in December 2021. The Hollywood Reporter called it “captivating and hard to shake.”

Moulin-Rouge-Broadway

MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL!

MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL! opened in 2019 and won 10 Tony Awards including the Tony Award for Best Musical. Based on the 2001 film, Moulin Rouge! follows a young poet, Christian, who falls in love with the courtesan Satine at the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret. You’ll see why The New York Times calls the show “spectacular” when you see the amazing set, great dancing, and awe-inducing arrangements of more top 40 songs than you can shake a stick at. Moulin Rouge! is a pop culture sensation that includes songs like “Lady Marmalade,” “Single Ladies,” “Firework,” and “Toxic.”

Tommy at the Nederlander Theatre

THE WHO’S TOMMY

THE WHO’S TOMMY comes to Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre after a hit run in Chicago. Des McAnuff directed the original Broadway show in 1993, and he returns to direct the triumphant revival in a production The Chicago Sun-Times said “dazzles at every turn…‘Tommy’ remains the pulsing roller coaster of a show it was when it premiered.” Based on the album Tommy by The Who and featuring songs like “The Acid Queen,” “Pinball Wizard,” “I’m Free,” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” this musical is sure to be a hot ticket.

The Heart of Rock and Roll

THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL

THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL, with book by Jonathan A. Abrams, story by Tyler Mitchell and Jonathan A. Abrams, and direction from Gordon Greenberg, features hit songs from Huey Lewis and the News, including “Working for a Living,” “Stuck with You,” “If This Is It,” and of course, “The Heart of Rock and Roll.” This romantic comedy plays at the James Earl Jones Theatre and follows a promising musician who has put down his guitar in favor of a full time corporate job and his all-business boss Cassandra as they each get a second shot at what they truly love. BroadwayWorld says the show “manages to instill the 80’s loveable, pop vibe from [Huey Lewis and the News’] music into this high otctane musical about following your dreams and the power of love.”

And below are other popular jukebox musicals that have played on Broadway or the West End: 

Biographical Jukebox Musicals:

BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL follows the life and career of Carole King and includes songs like “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Happy Days Are Here Again,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” and the titular song “Beautiful.”

AIN’T TOO PROUD: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS follows the story of The Temptations and includes songs like “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “My Girl,” “I Can’t Get Next to You,” and “In the Still of the Night.”

THE CHER SHOW follows the life and career of Cher and features three actors playing Cher at different times in her life. It includes songs like “If I Could Turn Back Time,” “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” “Strong Enough,” and “Take Me Home.”

MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET dramatizes a legendary recording session in 1956 at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis all recorded together. It includes songs like “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Memories Are Made of This,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “See You Later Alligator,” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

FELA! is based on Nigerian singer, composer and activist Fela Kuti and the time he was performing at the The Shrine nightclub and a thousand government soldiers were tasked with ending his public performances. It includes songs like “I Got the Feelin,” “Expensive Shit,” “Suffering and Smiling,” “Sorrow, Tears and Blood,” and “Kere Kay.”

SUMMER: THE DONNA SUMMER MUSICAL follows Duckling Donna – Donna in her pre-teens, Disco Donna – during the Disco era, and Diva Donna – at the top of her career in her 50s. It includes songs like “I Remember Yesterday,” “White Boys,” “She Works Hard for the Money,” “Hot Stuff,” and “Last Dance.”

LENNON about the life of John Lennon includes only work from his solo career and includes songs like “Money (That’s What I Want),” “Give Peace a Chance,” “I’m Stepping Out,” and “Imagine.”

A NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN follows Janis Joplin during a concert in 1970 not long before she died from a drug overdose. This musical was produced by Mike Stoller and Corky Hale Stoller and includes songs like ”Summertime,” “Cry Baby,” “Piece of My Heart,” and “Mercedes Benz.” You can watch this musical now on BroadwayHD.

BUDDY: THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY follows Buddy’s rise to fame, from 1957 when the song “That’ll Be the Day” hit the airwaves until his tragic death less than two years later on “The Day the Music Died.” Other songs include “Peggy Sue,” “Oh Boy,” and “Rave On.” This musical theatre show ran on the West End for over 12 years. 

TINA: THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL tells the previously untold story of music legend Tina Turner, a woman who defied convention and continues to push musical boundaries. From her childhood in Tennessee to being a global superstar, this Broadway musical opened in 2019 and is back after a long shutdown to delight audiences with songs like “Don’t Turn Around,” “River Deep Mountain High” and “Proud Mary.” The New York Times says “this story comes with songs that can thrill an audience.”

Films like Rocketman about Elton John, Bohemian Rhapsody about Queen, and Respect about Aretha Franklin and the upcoming movie Elvis about Elvis Presley are sometimes referred to as jukebox musical films. 

Jukebox Musicals with Original Stories:

ONCE UPON A ONE MORE TIME has a book by Jon Hartmere and features hit songs made popular by Britney Spears. Including songs like “Lucky,” “Oops!...I Did It Again,” “Baby One More Time,” and “Toxic,” this musical follows a group of fairy-tale princesses after a fairy godmother gives their book club The Feminine Mystique to read, and they find there may be more than one way to reach happily ever after.

MOVIN’ OUT was conceived and created by Twyla Tharp. It features the songs of Billy Joel and follows five friends in Long Island amidst the turbulence of the Vietnam War. Songs include “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “Piano Man,” “Angry Young Man,” “Goodnight Saigon,” “New York State of Mind,” and “Movin’ Out.”

ROCK OF AGES uses classic 80s rock songs and follows a small-town girl who wants to be an actress, and a busboy in a club who wants to be a rocker. They meet on the Sunset Strip, start a romance, and chase their dreams. This jukebox musical includes songs like “We Built This City,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” and has also been turned into a feature film

JAGGED LITTLE PILL follows the Healy family and the cracks that form beneath their perfect appearance. Featuring songs by Alanis Morissette including “Ironic,” “Hand in my Pocket,” “You Oughta Know,” and “Head Over Feet.”

AMERICAN IDIOT uses songs from Green Day’s album of the same name and follows three young men as they struggle to find meaning. Songs from this rock musical include “Holiday,” “Jesus of Suburbia,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” and “American Idiot.”

HEAD OVER HEELS uses the music of The Go-Go’s while telling the adapted story of The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia by Sir Philip Sidney. Songs include “We Got the Beat,” “Our Lips are Sealed,” “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” and “Head Over Heels.”

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN was made before the term ‘jukebox musical’ was popular. The original film starring Gene Kelly and the subsequent musical used both existing songs and originals like “Make ‘Em Laugh.”

Your Favorite Broadway Cast Recordings:

Part of what makes jukebox musicals so popular is getting to hear your favorite songs sung in a new way. If you’re looking for soundtracks to many of the above shows or want to know where to listen to music from your favorite musical, check out our article on Best Broadway Cast Recordings and Movie Musical Soundtracks and sing along to your Broadway favorites!

Musicals Based on Movies

Just as popular existing songs can form the basis for great musicals, so can movies. Check out our article about Musicals Based on Movies to find out more about what is playing right now!

Kathryn Willingham

Head of Creative Development at Jean Doumanian Productions

Kathryn Willingham has worked in entertainment for over ten years, and recent credits include: Co-producer of SHRINK currently streaming on Peacock, Associate Producer of the independent film UNA, and Creative Executive on multiple theatrical productions including HANGMEN by Martin McDonagh on Broadway, NASSIM by Nassim Soleimanpour Off-broadway and Associate on productions EVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe and THE EFFECT by Lucy Prebble. She was Producer of Todd Almond’s musical travelogue “Wyoming and Parts of Kansas” and Production Coordinator for Karen O and KK Barrett's “Stop the Virgens.”

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Education: B.A. in English, Literature & Creative Writing from Rhodes College
Knowledge: Theatrical Production

Published

Jul 1, 2022

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