Top Ten Jukebox Musicals Ever on Broadway. These Shows Created Compelling Stories From Music That Was Already Familiar To Audiences From Previous Audio Recordings
Top Ten Jukebox Musicals On Broadway That Use Music Already Familiar To Audiences
These days truly original musicals are hard to come by. Why? Because producers want to play it safe.
That’s where jukebox musicals come in. The logic here assumes that audiences, especially tourists, will flock to what’s familiar. But the shows that made our top ten list didn’t just simply recycle radio hits or song catalogs— they reinvented them for the stage and it worked, beautifully.
10. Head Over Heels (2018)
Instead of taking the expected route of using The Go-Go’s’ songbook to dramatize the experiences of the all-girl band who got the beat, this jukebox musical adapted Sir Philip Sidney’s 16th century prose romance The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia into a whimsical mash-up of styles and sensibilities. The show was plagued by some backstage drama but those who saw the enchanting production during its run had a really fun time.
9. Tina (2019)
While a fairly formulaic depiction of Anna Mae Bullock’s biography from her humble origin story in Nutbush, Tennessee to her metamorphosis into the rock star known as Tina Turner, this jukebox musical made its mark. The show boasted a transcendent performance by eventual Leading Actress Tony Award winner Adrienne Warren. Warren had the pipes and the legs to bring the ‘private dancer’ to life.
8. Xanadu (2007)
Based on the cult favorite film of the 1980s starring Olivia Newton-John, this musical fantasy makes no apologies for its bizarre plot, and never takes itself too seriously. Relying heavily on a collection of catchy ELO songs, Xanadu shows what happens when Kira, one of the nine Greek muses, falls in love with a mere mortal. Naturally, she’s on roller skates. The campy humor and stylized choreo were a vibe.
7. On Your Feet (2015)
Named after one of Gloria Estefan’s trademark high-energy numbers, this jukebox musical follows the lives of Gloria and her less visible husband Emilio. Their irresistible brand of Cuban-fusion pop that dominated the radio airwaves in the 80s and beyond, infused Broadway with crowd-pleasing flair. The immigrant story was also a compelling, timely factor, as was the dynamic performance of newcomer Ana Villafañe.
6. The Boy From Oz (2003)
In the veritable blockbuster that showed the world that Hugh Jackman is the consummate song-and-dance man, this jukebox musical chronicling the highly eventful life of Aussie hitmaker and performer Peter Allen, landed resoundingly with audiences. Jackman snagged the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor and has become a bankable Broadway mainstay ever since. The musical also recouped its $8.25 million investment.
5. The Cher Show (2018)
If you could turn back time, right? Well, this jukebox musical celebrating the life and times of Cherilyn Sarkisian did exactly that, in order to delve into the meteoric, tumultuous ascent of the titular legend. The show used 3 different actresses to portray Cher at different points in her life and Stephanie J. Block took home the Tony for her masterful, eerily perfect embodiment of the woman who made us all believe!
4. Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1978)
Back in the 70s this kind of show was called a ‘musical revue’ but the essential ingredients are the same. While there’s no real book to speak of here, this tribute to the music of Fats Waller remains an extremely theatrical vehicle, portraying a sultrier time when places like the Savoy and the Cotton Club were swingin’ all night long. The show, which even took home the Tony Award for Best Musical, featured seminal performances by Nell Carter and André De Shields.
3. Jersey Boys (2005)
Probably the most successful jukebox musical ever to hit the Great White Way (and then the Great Off-White Way!) Jersey Boys uses the song catalog of The Four Seasons to chronicle the formation, success and ultimately the breakup of Frank Valli, Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi’s boy band. The nostalgia fueled vehicle took home 4 Tony Awards, including the prize for Best Musical. Oh what a night, indeed!
2. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (2014)
Noted for its strong book (by Douglas McGrath), Beautiful tells the story of iconic songwriter Carole King against the backdrop of the 1960s artistic incubator known as the Brill Building. Jesse Mueller’s transcendent portrayal of King won her the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress and launched her career. So popular was the musical, a feature film adaptation is currently in the works.
1. Movin’ Out (2002)
Since Billy Joel’s songs tend to be steeped in narrative, it’s no surprise that this jukebox musical was mounted on Broadway. But the fact that it was conceived by Twyla Tharp and rooted in dance as its primary mode of storytelling was certainly unexpected. Instead of focusing on the songwriter, the musical instead explores a generation of American youth during the 1960s and their various experiences with the controversial Vietnam War.