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Popular Jukebox Musicals and Where to Find Them

Close photo of a jukebox. Theater & Shows

If traditional musicals are not your thing, but you still enjoy the theatre experience, you might consider seeing jukebox musicals. This intriguing subgenre marries the artistry of dramatic acting with the familiarity of your favorite radio songs to tell stories in a more approachable way. 

Whether you enjoy learning more about the early days of rock and roll or memorializing an artist’s career through the hits that made them a household name, there is bound to be a jukebox musical that is right up your alley. 

What Is A Jukebox Musical?

A jukebox musical is a stage musical or film that features popular existing songs rather than original music on its score. Some like TINA – The Tina Turner Musical or Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations focus on a single artist or group interlacing their biggest hits with important moments in their career. 

Another popular format features a variety of songs from different artists. Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge is an example, covering well-known songs from Elton John, Madonna and David Bowie. Some jukebox musicals can be found on Broadway, but they are also popular for touring productions, especially during summer. 

The Biopics

Take a trip to Motown with Ain’t Too Proud, which follows The Temptations from their beginnings in Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This smooth quintet took the world by storm with 42 Top Ten hits which included “My Girl,” “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” Since debuting on Broadway in March 2019, Aint Too Proud has earned 11 Tony Award nominations. 

Toward the end of the 1960s, Tina Turner was hitting her stride with then-husband Ike Turner. They opened for the Rolling Stones and produced consistent hits like “Proud Mary,” a cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival song which earned a Grammy Award. Turner went solo in 1976 and continued touring, but experienced a historic resurgence in the 1980s with her album Private Dancer. The jukebox musical TINA – The Tina Turner Musical tells her story of wild success, a relationship gone wrong and her road back to the spotlight. 

On Your Feet! Tells the inspiring story of Cuban-American power couple Gloria and Emilio Estefan. Gloria sold more than 90 million records worldwide with international hits like “Don’t Wanna Lose You,” “Turn the Beat Around” and “Get On Your Feet.” She won eight Grammy Awards and received a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Two more works that capture the lives of powerful female acts are Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and Summer – The Donna Summer Musical. King worked as a writer for many years before releasing her solo debut album in 1970. Her second album, Tapestry (1971) won four Grammys including Album of the Year. It featured songs like “It’s Too Late” and “You’ve Got a Friend.” Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco, danced her way to the top with songs like “She Works Hard for the Money” and “Who Do You Think You’re Foolin?’” 

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Stories Inspired by Songs

Even though Jagged Little Pill uses the catalog of just one artist, it takes a less biographical approach. Instead, the story of this musical brings Alanis Morissette’s 1995 album to life song-by-song as the plot is acted out on stage. The score also features a few of Morissette’s other hits and two new songs written for the musical. Jagged Little Pill debuted on Broadway in 2019 and won two Tony Awards in 2020. It also won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. 

Mamma Mia! is another example that follows this model using the Swedish group ABBA’s catalog of hits. The story follows a young woman named Sophie who is engaged to be married and sets out to find her biological father before the wedding. The musical was adapted as a film in 2008 starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried. It had songs like “Dancing Queen,” “Waterloo” and “The Name of the Game” as well as its title track, “Mamma Mia.”

Once Upon a One More Time, on the other hand, simply uses the music of Britney Spears to tell its story of fairy-tale princesses who initiate a feminist uprising. &Juliet does this with Swedish pop writer Max Martin’s music too, retelling William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet from a new perspective. 

Musicals like Moulin Rouge and Rock of Ages follow a similar format, although they source songs from many different artists to tell their stories. The first is based on the 2001 film Moulin Rouge!, which was directed by Baz Luhrmann. It takes songs like Katy Perry’s “Firework,” Elton John’s “Your Song” and The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” as it follows the protagonists Christian and Satine on a Bohemian adventure in Paris. 

As the title suggests, Rock of Ages uses classic rock songs of the 1980s to tell the story of an aspiring rock star. The musical was written by Chris D’Arienzo and features songs from Pat Benatar, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and other well-known bands. 

Jukebox Musical Tickets

Hear your favorite hits in a whole new way with one of these enchanting musicals when they come through your city. You can find jukebox musical tickets for all these shows and more through TicketSmarter.