Jukebox Musicals

edited September 2015 in Theater
Recently, I've been thinking about the genre of musicals known as "jukebox musicals"- stage or film musicals that use previously released popular songs as their scores, contextualized into a dramatic plot (the best examples that I can think of being MAMMA MIA!, AIN'T MISBEHAVIN', SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, JERSEY BOYS, XANADU, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, YELLOW SUBMARINE, HAPPY FEET, and ALMOST HEAVEN: JOHN DENVER'S AMERICA).

Now, I have a couple of questions regarding jukebox musicals: (1) When one decides to write such a musical, and the songs are intended to actually form part of the narrative, how do they decide where the songs fit in the story, and in what context? (2) What exactly is the point of writing such musicals?


  • Oh boy, you've real opened up a can of worms haven't you? Ha!

    I have no idea how to answer your first question, because I've never written a jukebox musical, and don't intend to, because there's a difference between pre-existing pop songs and theatre songs.

    But I honestly think question number two can be answered thusly-- They're written and produced to make money. I know that's cynical, but for every JERSEY BOYS, there's a GOOD VIBRATIONS, and honestly, did any of the authors of GOOD VIBRATIONS have good artistic intentions? Maybe, but I don't think so. "Hey, The Beach Boys songs in a beach setting! People will come, know the songs and have fun!" And more power to those folks, even though people did not come to see it.

    Then again, Hal Prince once said something like "You can't make a living in the theatre, but you can make a killing." And JERSEY BOYS had made a killing. More power to them, too. It's artful, and it's fun. But I prefer an original score.

    (SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, by the way, is different from a jukebox stage musical in my opinion. Movie musicals from MGM always worked best as light and silly confections of songs. And that's what SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is. It's a hilarious film, and beautifully done, but a confection nonetheless. And there's nothing wrong with that, as long as it is done artfully.)

    If this is incoherent, forgive me.
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