There are a lot of jukebox musicals on Broadway? Actually, all of them are! What do you mean? Aren’t they? How come? What about “Hamilton”, it is all singing!
A jukebox musical/movie means that most of the songs aren’t original. They are popular songs, not specially created for the musical. Here are three of the most popular jukebox musicals on Broadway plus a couple of honorable mentions.
A real classic when it comes to musicals. Actually, it is presented as a form of a documentary telling the story of the 60’s rock ‘n’ roll group The Four Seasons. The show is separated into four parts and a finale, narrated by a member of the band.
“Spring” is an introduction to the band, their history, and how they formed. It is narrated by Tommy DeVito, who introduces Nick DeVito and Nick Massi, as well as their group “The Variety Trio”. He sings about the discovery of Frankie Castelluccio, as well as the band’s early struggles.
“Summer” is narrated by their new member Bob Gaudio, who was brought in by Joe Pesci (yes, the Joe Pesci). The band then signs a contract with Bob Crewe, who helps them out with finding their sound and stage identity. The Four seasons score some big hits like “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man”. However, the constant touring takes their toll as Frankie gets divorced, and Tommy has problems with the mob.
Act II starts with “Fall” narrated by Nick Massi. The boys are superstars, but most of them have serious personal problems. Tommy is heavily in debt and has friction with Bob. He’s jealous of Frankie’s success and tries to seduce his girlfriend. The band covers his debt along with a mob boss, but Tommy is “jailed” in Las Vegas. Nick leaves the band in the end.
“Winter” is narrated by Frankie. He speaks on his relations with Tommy and Nick’s decision. Bobby steps back, giving Frankie the spotlight. Then the band becomes Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Another mixed part – the band enjoys huge success, but Frankie’s daughter dies of an overdose.
Bob Crewe gives us “Finale” with the highlight of the Four Season’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
“Tina” tells the story of Tina Turner 0 from her humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee, to her rock stardom.
Act I finds little Tina still going with the name Anna Mae, and singing in the church chorus. Her parents have a difficult relationship, which leads her mother to leave with her biggest sister. They later invites her to join them in St. Louis, where she meets Ike in a night club. He takes her in his band and gives her the name Tina Turner. She fears Ike’s temper, who even gets in an argument with Phil Spector, who wants to record her solo. Tina overdoses, they get in a fight, and she leaves him.
Tina is in great trouble at the beginning of Act II – no one wants to hire her, and Ike holds copyright over all of her hits. She is saved by Roger Davies – a music producer and a fan of hers. He brings her to London, where she meets Erwin Bach. He falls in love with her and asks her to stay in London. She rejects and goes on to promote herself. Tina gains huge success despite all the racism, and signs with Capitol.
She has one final encounter with Ike on her mother’s deathbed. However, she has a huge show in Brazil and reconciles with Erwin. She then proceeds to sing her encore – “The Best”.
One of the most successful crossovers from the screen to the stage, Moulin Rouge offers a take on early 20th century Paris with a lot of modern songs.
The action takes place in the historic district of Montmartre, known for its cabarets. Christian meets Toulouse-Lautrec and Santiago who want to recruit him for their musical play in the Moulin Rouge.
He accidentally meets Satine, who mistakes him for the Duke of Monroth. Zidler wants to introduce her to the Duke, so he can aid the Moulin Rouge financially. They sneak to the Elephant but are interrupted by the Duke himself, whom they lie that are practicing lines for the show. The two, along with the rest, manage to pitch an idea to Monroth, who likes it and gives his financial support.
Toulouse-Lautrec shares with Christian that he had feelings for Satine years ago. He urges the young American to share his feelings with the dancer. She falls for Christian, despite her initial refusal.
The two keep seeing each other, but tensions rise between Toulouse-Lautrec and Monroth. Satine proposes that the two should break up in order to please the pride nobleman, but Christian refuses. Tension further rise, as Monroth wants the love of Satine, but demands to “remodel” her, so she can fit in his world. She goes on for the greater good of the Moulin Rouge. Then he adds up by stating that he’ll get Christian killed if Satine returns to his side
In a melodramatic turn of events, Christian loads a gun with real ammo and gives it to Satine, so she can kill him on stage. She, however, sings their secret song. Her health has seriously worsened during the course of the show. The two reaffirm their love, and she then dies in his arms.
The honorable mentions go to “Ain’t too proud” and “Jagged Little Pill”.
The jukebox musicals on Broadway share a quite diverse set of topics but are nonetheless full of drama, love, and dedication to the art. That is why these shows will always be considered timeless Broadway classics.