The following list is continued from "The Top Ten Jukebox Musicals."
5) The Boy from Oz:
The spectacular qualities of this biography of songwriter Peter Allen rely heavily on the break-through performance of Hugh Jackman. (Is there nothing that Australian can't do?) After dying of AIDS, Allen looks back on his life, returning to the songs that made him a success on the radio and on Broadway. In addition to the rousing musical numbers, the show also explores Allen's complex relationships with Judy Garland, his ex-wife Liza Minnelli, and his male lover, Gregory Connell (who is sort of the reason Liza becomes his ex).
Some of the songs include such memorable songs as "Don't Cry Out Loud," "Arthur's Theme," and "I Go to Rio." Most of the songs are something you would hear on an easy-listening station, yet Allen's life has enough tragedy and self-discovery to generate a complex portrayal of an artist.
4) Jersey Boys:
If you are a fan of The Four Seasons (and the music of the early 60s), then this is the show for you. But even if you've never heard of Frankie Valli, this is an engaging look at the music industry going through growing pains.
Part of the charm of Jersey Boys is the straight-forward documentary approach to its material. This two-act show is divided into four parts (each one signifying a different "season" in the band's lifespan). Each band member gets a chance to narrate, keeping this bio-musical clipping at a fast pace. There is something appealing about rags-to-riches stories, especially when the characters discover that fame and fortune don't always match one's expectations. Another reason for this jukebox musical's success: medleys and montages. Short sequences pull together a wide number of songs, giving the audience more music for their money.
3) Forever Plaid!:
Four good-natured crooners hope to make it big with their feel-good tunes. Unfortunately, fame is not in the cards. For one, these four teenage friends (Frankie, Jinx, Sparky, and Smudge) specialize in songs of the 50s, despite living in the era of Beatlemania. In fact, the Plaids (that's the name of their singing group) are struck by a bus filled with Beatle-crazed Catholic School girls. The Plaids don't live to perform at their very first gig.
Luckily, their spirits appear in front of the theater audience. They have been giving one chance to perform for us before flying off to heaven; it's an imaginative, funny, yet bittersweet concept for a show that transcends the typical "jukebox" format now seen so often on Broadway. Splashes of audience participation
2) Mama Mia:
This show is infectious. I mean that in a good way. Sort of. When I first learned that they were turning a collection of ABBA songs into a Broadway musical, I rolled my eyes. And I rolled my eyes again when I heard the premise of the story:
- Premise: A young woman wants her father to give her away at her wedding
- Problem: her father could be one of three different strangers
- Solution: Invite all three men to wedding
- New Problem: The young woman's mother must now confront three different loves from her past.
But once I actually watched the show, I stopped rolling my eyes, and began clapping and laughing along with everyone else. It's a quirky romantic comedy with several predictable outcomes and a few surprises. It's nothing ground-breaking, and yet audiences have been hooked on this show for over a decade. The charm of Mama Mia, as with many jukebox musicals, stems from its energy. Simply put, it's fun to see how the writer will include the next cheesy (yet incredibly catchy) ABBA song. Perhaps the best moment to demonstrate is the scene when one of the male characters tells one of the women that he plans to remain single for the rest of his life. After she takes his words in, she thinks a moment and then says, "If you change your mind --" And then the audience bursts into laughter because they know that famous lyric is the start of "Take a Chance," another hit song from the Swedish super group.
1) Singin' in the Rain:
My favorite movie musical of all time, Singin' in the Rain is comprised of tunes from the late 1920s and early 1930s. It's by no means a typical jukebox musical, but it serves as a shining example of how to create an awesome musical from recycled songs.
If you haven't seen the Gene Kelley film, you are missing out on one of the cinematic gems of the 20th century. In addition to the film, Singin' in the Rain can be seen on stage, from time to time. It's a difficult production to mount, mainly because of the famous rain sequence. Find out more about the recent West End production of Singin' in the Rain.