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6 Broadway Jukebox Musicals To See This Season

Category Broadway

|by Mark Robinson |


From long-running hits to new productions, here’s what to catch this fall and winter

Have you ever come across the term “jukebox musical” and wondered what it entails? A jukebox musical is like your typical Broadway musical, but instead of having an original score written for the piece, it instead takes preexisting (usually popular) songs and utilizes them to tell the story. Sometimes the music of a particular composer, singer, or band is used to tell the artist’s life story (Jersey Boys, The Cher Show), in other cases, music of a particular musician or band is used to tell a story that has nothing to do with them at all (Mamma Mia!, All Shook Up, Head Over Heels). Occasionally, songs from a variety of artists are brought together to tell the story (Trip of Love, Moulin Rouge!). There are several jukebox musicals running on Broadway and even more coming later this season. Here is a roundup of those you can hope to catch on the Great White Way this fall and beyond.

‘Moulin Rouge!’ joins ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ and ‘Beautiful’ on Broadway this season (Photos: Matthew Murphy; Joan Marcus)

‘Moulin Rouge!’ joins ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ and ‘Beautiful’ on Broadway this season (Photos: Matthew Murphy; Joan Marcus)

Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations
The 2019 Tony Award winner for Best Choreography, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations takes us a journey back to the 1960s and ‘70s, telling the story of the popular music group and their rise to fame as contract performers for Motown Records. Of course, to tell the story, a string of the band’s hit songs have been assembled to serve as the show’s score. Among the parade of pop tunes to be found are “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Baby Love,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “My Girl” and “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.”

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Though it is poised to conclude its celebrated, six-year run on Oct. 27, 2019, there is still time to catch this Tony Award-winning musical biography that brings to life the titular phenomenon that is Carole King. The singer-songwriter, from her early career in the music industry through her emergence as one of our country’s great musical storytellers, is brought vividly to life in Douglas McGrath’s book and through the King/Gerry Goffin and Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil songs. “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “One Fine Day,” “It’s Too Late” and “I Feel the Earth Move” are just a handful of the iconic songs you’ll hear.

Girl From North Country
Unlike the previous two titles, Girl From North Country is not a biographical jukebox musical, but instead aspires to tell an original story with the music of Bob Dylan interpolated into the plot. Set in 1934 Minnesota during the Great Depression, the owner of a rundown guesthouse is struggling to find the money to keep the bank from foreclosing on his property. Fearful for his family (including his wife who is suffering from dementia) and for the other residents of the establishment, things take an interesting turn when some new guests arrive during a thunderstorm. Girl From North Country will open on Broadway in February of 2020. Among the Dylan tunes in the show are “Went to See the Gypsy,” “License to Kill,” “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Jokerman” and the title song.

Jagged Little Pill
Preparing at this very moment to open on Broadway on December 5, 2019, Jagged Little Pill is inspired by Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morisette’s album of the same name. The album itself was nominated for nine 1995 Grammy Awards, and took home five. Diablo Cody has taken these iconic songs and created a dramatic framework on which to hang them. The story follows The Healy family, a seemingly perfect clan that begins to unravel when their carefully guarded secrets bubble to the surface and explode. Songs like “All I Really Want,” “Hand in My Pocket,” “So Unsexy,” “Ironic” and “You Oughta Now” provide compelling means for showing us how we begin to crumble under the weight of our self-manufactured tower of secrets and lies.

Moulin Rouge!
Arguably the jukebox musical to end all jukebox musicals, Moulin Rouge! just overflows with songs from the world of popular music, with over 80 titles adding up to its thrilling score. The musical is adapted from the 2001 romantic film musical about a bohemian composer named Christian who falls in love with Satine, the star of the famous Paris nightclub The Moulin Rouge. Though their star-crossed love affair is plagued with heartache and tragedy, it also brims with beauty and truth. “Lady Marmalade,” “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” “Your Song,” “Roxanne” and “Rolling in the Deep” are just a sampling of the myriad musical numbers. The famed “Elephant Love Medley” manages to sandwich in around two-dozen fragments of some of the greatest love songs ever composed. 

Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
Arriving on Broadway direct from London, where it has proven to be a smash hit, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical will open at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Nov. 7, 2019. Adrienne Warren will play the title character, walking us through the ups and down of her life, from her humble beginnings in Tennessee through her stormy and abusive relationship with Ike Turner, and into her solo career, where she rose like a phoenix to reclaim her position as an international music sensation. “River Deep, Mountain High,” “Proud Mary,” “Private Dancer,” “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” and “We Don’t Need Another Hero” will get deep inside your soul and give you a glimpse into the iconic presence that is Tina Turner. 

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. His forthcoming book, Sitcommentary: The Television Comedies That Changed America, will hit the shelves in October, 2019. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.

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