Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys, and more
Broadway audiences have been singing and dancing along to the hit songs of jukebox musicals for years — and with new musicals in the works based on artists like Donna Summer, Cher, and the Bee Gees, the genre is showing no signs of slowing down. Some jukebox musicals have more staying power than others (see: the success of Mamma Mia! and Jersey Boys versus the “they made that?” forgettability of Viva Forever!), but they generally have a built-in audience of diehard fans of the original music artist. Here are 30 jukebox musicals that will have you grooving (or at the very least, bobbing your head) to some of the most unforgettable tunes ever written.
SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical
Using the music and lyrics of disco diva Donna Summer, Summer traces the rise and fall of the musical legend. Told through the dramatic lens of her final concert, the musical features three actresses in the main role as well as more than 20 of Summer’s iconic hits in the score, including “Love to Love You, Baby,” “Bad Girls,” and “Hot Stuff.” Summer made its world premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse in California and opened on Broadway on April 23, 2018 — two of its stars, LaChanze and Ariana DeBose earned Tony nominations for their performances. (Get tickets here)
Head Over Heels
Head Over Heels features the iconic songs of the most successful female rock band of all time, the Go-Gos. The show boasts a Shakesperean plot full of mistaken identities, jealous lovers, romance and scandal, which is fitting given it premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. With Gwyneth Paltrow on board as executive producer, the musical burst on to Broadway in summer 2018 and continues to prove to audiences that it’s got the beat. Get more info here.
The Bee Gees musical
As of yet, the Bee Gees musical doesn’t exist, but Universal Theatrical Group has officially acquired the rights to develop a stage musical based on the life story and music of the Bee Gees. One of the most successful musical groups of the 1970s, the Bee Gess have already seen their music employed in the Saturday Night Fever score, but this show would explicitly explore their life story and musical success.
The Cher Show
Do you believe in life after love? Broadway does — in fall 2018, a biographical musical will feature Cher’s chart-topping hits, and will follow the life of the singer, actress, and icon over her six decade career.
Tina Turner is jumping on the Broadway jukebox musical bandwagon with Tina, headed for Broadway in fall 2019. Using Turner’s iconic music, it tells the story of her life and her rise to superstardom. It premiered in London’s West End in April 2018, and it boasts some legit jukebox musical credentials with original Mamma Mia director and choreographer Phyllida Lloyd and Anthony van Laast on the production team.
Jagged Little Pill
Since 2013, we’ve known of Alanis Morisette’s plans to adapt her 1995 album Jagged Little Pill for the stage. It will finally debut in May 2018 at American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The musical is being penned by Oscar winning screenwriter Diablo Cody in collaboration with Morrisette and is said to feature “a modern and multi-generational family and their complex dynamics, touching on issues of gender identity and race.”
Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations
Hits from Motown have provided a lot of fodder for various musicals over the year, and The Temptations are the latest to get the Broadway treatment. Based on founding member Otis Williams’ autobiography, the musical played to raucous crowds on the West Coast in 2018 before it makes the jump to Broadway in spring 2019.
Escape to Margaritaville
Featuring the greatest hits of Jimmy Buffett (and a couple of new tunes as well), Escape to Margaritaville is said to blend the tropical party vibe of a Buffett concert with a rom-com musical tale of bartender and resort singer Tully and ecological scientist Rachel. The show officially opens on Broadway on Feb. 16, 2018 after runs in San Diego and Chicago. (Get tickets here.)
Arguably the greatest jukebox musical success story, Jersey Boys uses the music of The Four Seasons to tell the story of the formation, rise, and dissolution of the 1960s group and its famous frontman, Frankie Valli. It won four Tony Awards, including best musical, and ran on Broadway for more than a decade. Eventually adapted into a film by Clint Eastwood, today it continues to run around the world, as well as in an ongoing national tour and Off-Broadway production. (Get tickets here.)
Beginning on the West End in 1999 and on Broadway in 2001, Mamma Mia! launched a new craze of jukebox musicals with its ABBA-inspired score and sun-soaked tale of a young woman seeking to discern which of three men might be her father in the days before her wedding on a Greek isle. It remains one of the top 10 longest running shows on both Broadway and London’s West End and was adapted into a major motion picture starring Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, and more. A sequel film is due out in summer 2018. (Get the original cast recording here.)
All Shook Up
Based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, All Shook Up uses the rock’n’roll jams of Elvis Presley to tell a story of mistaken identity and romance in a small 1950s midwestern town. It ran for seven months on Broadway in 2005 and remains a popular show with schools and regional theaters. (Get the original cast recording here.)
Motown the Musical
The sounds of Motown defined a generation, so it was a surefire hit when Berry Gordy decided to adapt his autobiography and the music of the hitmakers of Motown record label into a Broadway musical. Motown played Broadway twice, from 2013-2015 and then running again in a 2016 limited engagement. Its national tour is ongoing. (Get tickets here.)
Green Day surprised the world when the band turned its 2004 rock opera album American Idiot into a sung-through musical in 2010. It ran for over a year and earned a Tony nomination for best musical with its tale of disaffected youth fleeing a stifling suburban lifestyle in pursuit of their dreams. Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong even occasionally subbed in for one of the roles throughout the run. (Get the original cast recording here.)
We Will Rock You
Based on the music of Queen, this musical became the 10th-longest running show in West End history, running from 2002 to 2014. It’s never played Broadway, but it did have a Las Vegas run and a North American tour. The show follows a group of Bohemians in the distant future fighting to bring love, fashion, and rock’n’roll to a world ruled by conformity. (Get the cast album here.)
Rock of Ages
Built around famous glam metal rock bands of the 1980s, Rock of Ages features songs from the likes of Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison, and Europe, among other well-known rock bands. Drew and Sherri meet while working at a dive bar on the Sunset Strip and fall in love amidst pursuing their dreams as performers and fighting to save the club. The 2009 musical was nominated for best musical at the Tony Awards and spawned a 2012 film adaptation. (Get the original cast recording here.)
Conceived by Twyla Tharp and featuring the music of Billy Joel, this musical 2002 musical told the story of Long Island teenagers in the 1960s grappling with the Vietnam War and the generation gap. All set to Joel’s music and borrowing character names from his songs, the show has little dialogue and the dancers don’t sing but instead tell their story through dance while the band provides their score. (Get the original cast recording here.)
Come Fly Away
Inspired by the success of Movin’ Out, Twyla Tharp conceived of another dance-heavy, plot-thin musical — this time using the catalog of Frank Sinatra. Set to the music of the famous crooner, four couples look for love in a New York nightclub in this 2010 show.
Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles
Named the longest-running Beatles tribute act, this musical features over 30 songs of the Fab Four performed as a re-enactment of their concerts and music. There is little dialogue, but it does provide a rough chronological history of the lads from Liverpool. It began in 1975 in Laguna Beach, California but made the jump to Broadway in 2010.
Crazy for You
Rather than drawing from pop or rock songs, Crazy for You turns to American standards in the form of the Gershwin songbook. The musical is inspired by the songwriting duo’s 1930s musical Girl Crazy, but incorporates many additional songs. The show is an old-fashioned tale of backstage drama, romance, and good old “put on a show” hijinks. It won the 1992 Tony Award for best musical.
On Your Feet
This 2015 musical tells the story of musical team Gloria and Emilio Estefan through their music. Using their most famous Cuban-fusion pop tunes, it paints a biographical picture of one of the world’s most popular artists. Gloria Estefan produced the show and even wrote a new song for the proceedings with her daughter. (Get the original cast recording here.)
The Boy from Oz
This 1998 Australian musical hit Broadway in a revised form in 2003, telling the life story of Australian star Peter Allen through his own music. Allen was married to Liza Minnelli, so the musical also features Liza and her mother, Judy Garland, who are integral to his own discovery of his sexuality. It earned a Tony for Hugh Jackman, proving that Wolverine had astounding song and dance skills in addition to some killer claws. (Get the Broadway cast album here.)
Whitney Houston may be gone, but we will always love her and her music. The pop icon’s 1992 film was adapted into this 2012 musical featuring her most famous songs from the film’s score as well as many other Houston favorites. The stage musical also expanded the role of Houston’s character, Rachel, and focused more on her than the titular bodyguard. It made a successful West End bow and has an ongoing U.S. tour, but has yet to play Broadway. (Get tickets here.)
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Based on a 1994 film of the same name, this musical follows two drag queens and one transgender woman as they trek across the Australian outback to play an engagement at a remote resort. Along the way, they encounter homophobia and a whole comedy of errors. It made its Broadway debut in 2011, having already found success in Australia and the U.K. Similar to the film, it features a host of popular songs including “Material Girl,” “It’s Raining Men,” and “I Will Survive.” (Get the original Broadway cast recording here.)
Spice up your life with this musical featuring the most popular songs of British girl group The Spice Girls. It ran for seven months, beginning in 2012, in London’s West End and has never transferred stateside. The musical follows a young woman who has her life turned upside down when she excels in a reality singing competition.
Saturday Night Fever
Though the Bee Gees currently have a musical in the works featuring their songs and life story, the band already featured heavily on Broadway in this adaptation of the hit 1977 film of the same name featuring its iconic score. The musical tells the story of Brooklynite Tony Manero (originated by breakout star John Travolta in the film), who finds refuge in the local disco. It played Broadway in 2000 after a successful London run. (Get the original cast recording here.)
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Beautiful tells the story of the early career and life of singer-songwriter Carole King from her time writing hits for other groups with husband Gerry Goffin through to her breakout success with 1970s solo album Tapestry. Jessie Mueller won a Tony for her portrayal of King in the 2014 musical, which features many of King’s most beloved songs. (Get tickets here.)
Million Dollar Quartet
This 2010 Broadway musical tells the story of one fateful day in December 1956 when four of musics biggest legends came together for a jam session at Sun Studio in Memphis. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis come to life together onstage, as well as delivering some of their greatest hits as solo artists and detailing their rise to fame via Sun’s Sam Philips. (Get the original cast recording here.)
Smokey Joe's Cafe
This 1995 musical revue features 39 pop standards from iconic songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. There is no dialogue or unifying theme, but merely an assortment of performances from various members of the cast. It remains the longest-running musical revue in Broadway history.
Named after a famous Fats Waller song, Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a musical revue that serves as tribute to black musicians of the 1920s and ’30s who belonged to the Harlem Renaissance and made their name in nightclubs like the Cotton Club. Five performers lead the audience through the biggest hits of the era and the life motto of the likes of Fats Waller. It opened on Broadway in 1978, but has since seen a 30th anniversary national tour in 2009 with American Idol contestants Frenchie Davis, Trenyce Cobbins, and season 2 winner Ruben Studdard. (Get the Broadway cast recording here.)
Named after their most popular single, Our House features the music of ska/pop band Madness. Debuting in the West End in 2002, it won an Olivier Award for best new musical. Madness was inspired to create a jukebox musical with their own songs after the success of Mamma Mia!. The musical follows Camden lad Joe Casey at a turning point in his, then following through to trace two different paths of “Good Joe” and “Bad Joe.”
A modern re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Red Shoes, Hot Feet uses the music of Earth, Wind, and Fire to craft a story of a young woman (who dreams of becoming a Broadway dancer and finds her life unraveling when she turns to a pair of magic shoes. The show opened in April 2006 and ran for barely four months before bad reviews forced it to close.
This short-lived 2005 musical turned to the music of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys for its jukebox score. The musical follows three high school friends yearning to escape their New England town for the promise of California — however, none of them own a car. Enlisting the car and travel companion of the school’s unpopular valedictorian, they embark on a journey full of romance and drama.