So we all know that Mamma Mia! is a big success not just on Broadway but worldwide. But Mamma Mia! also opened a Pandora box in musical theatre. People really loved the fact that they knew the songs and how they were placed in a new funny context. And from that moment we were cursed with the band based musicals. They are endless: We Will Rock You (Queen), All Shook Up (Elvis Presley), Jersey Boys (Four Seasons), Good Vibrations (Beach Boys), Saturday Night Fever (Bee Gees), Lennon (Do I really have to?), Rock of Ages (80’s Rock) and in Spanish: Hoy No Me Puedo Levantar (Mecano), Besame Mucho (Boleros) and Mentiras (80’s Pop). They are called Jukebox Musicals. And even though some of them were made before Mamma Mia!, it was that production that proved that they could be an incredible success.
But why did they exploded like gun powder? It is simply. Thousands of people around the world discovered that they could now write a musical! Yes! You don’t need a composer now, you don’t even need a good plot, you just need a good CD collection and some time. Think on any story, find whichever song fits and just go for it! And guess what? People will love to go see it! Just because they want to hear the songs. Disney made a show called On The Record with all of their music, but I think something really clever is that they didn’t attempt to add a plot to it, it was more like a concert in Musical Theatre style, and that is what people wanted, to hear them played live with great voices and new arrangements.
I’m not saying that its not a good idea to do a Jukebox Musical, I honestly love All Shook Up (and that one is even worse cause the story is Twelfth Night). But I think that we are reaching the point were its enough of that. We still need original musicals, we still need composers and people that have never done musicals to back off and let musical composers work. If you ask around for people’s favourite musicals, unless they are big fans of a specific band, most likely they are not going to mention one of this Jukebox Musicals. It is clear that pieces like Les Mis, Phantom, Chicago, Cabaret live forever because the music was specifically wrote to match the story, by default naturally. I encourage producers if possible not to go for the safe bet of a jukebox musical, and embrace what could be the next best musical.
There is also the other point to cover that is musicals based on books and movies, or both. But I think this is a totally different case, because at the end the book and songs were written for that specific story, which makes the piece way more coherent. Also, by inspiring your songs and a book or a great novel or movie brings you the best of two worlds. I highly doubt that a brilliant composer is also a brilliant novelist (not that it couldn’t happen). If they inspire their work on each other you can get great musicals with great music and a great storyline, like Phanotm, Les Mis or Wicked. All of them brilliant theatre shows that will stay around forever. No matter what is playing in the radio.
What do you think? Is your favourite musical a Jukebox Musical? Leave a comment (next to post title) and let us know. Subscribe to the RSS. Remember you can join the Facebook Group (button on the right) to be notified when I write and you can invite others to see this posts. Thanks again and happy Xmas shopping!