Since 1890, when Louis Glass and William S. Arnold invented a machine in while you can put a coin and play a song jukeboxes have been a staple in our environment, particularly in bars, lounges, and sometimes restaurants.

Musicals are another form of entertainment typically sought out at the movies, theaters, televisions, and other devices.

Both terms combined though refer to a specific type of musical for the stage or screen that utilizes a group of songs, typically from one artist or group of artists, that are already popular to create a story.

Not since they first mixed chocolate with peanut butter has any combination ever sounded so great.

Our love of both jukeboxes, pop music, and musicals is why we would like to list eight previously produced jukebox musicals.

 

1. Mamma Mia!

This musical, which premiered at the Prince Edward Theatre in the West End of London in 1999, is written entirely for the soundtrack, which is the best of album by Swedish pop group ABBA. While this wildly disco music is the soundtrack for the night, the story has nothing to do with the group who wrote the songs.

Instead, the storyline is centered around Sophia, who is getting married. She returns to the Greek Island she grew up on to have her ceremony. Her mother, Donna, is waiting there with her two best friends, Tanya and Rosie.

Sophia has mission and that is to find out who her real father is and attempts to do so by inviting three men from her mother’s prior boyfriends to her wedding.

It was released as a move in 2008 starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan. It was nominated for Golden Globes in the categories Best Motion Picture: Comedy or Musical and Best Actress in a Motion Picture: Comedy or Musical for Meryl Streep.

The Broadway production was nominated for five Tonys and won a Theatre World Award for Outstanding Debut Stage Performance in 2002.

While we don’t find the storyline of this particular musical that great, the music it utilizes earns it a spot on our list. The music of ABBA can get entire audiences up and out of their seats dancing in the aisles.

 

2. Million Dollar Quartet

This jukebox musical is based on the legendary tale of one evening at Memphis’ Sun Studios when Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash dropped by, each on their own, and began to jam.

Owner of Sun Records, Sam Phillips, was sitting in the booth and decided to hit record without any of them knowing. He sat on it for nearly twenty years before releasing it. The album sold millions.

Here is the birth of the musical Million Dollar Quartet, which is the story of that fated night in Memphis.

Written by Floyd Mutrux this jukebox musical premiered at the Seaside Music Theater in Florida. Following that run it was produced at Village Theatre in a Seattle suburb in 2007 made records at the box office.

This jukebox musical did a limited engagement at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. This production was co-directed by the author. It did so well the show moved to Chicago’s Apollo Theater on Halloween in 2008.

Two years later this jukebox musical opened on Broadway at the Nederlander Theater on April 11. It closed more than two years later after performing 489 times. It re-opened Off-Broadway at the New World Stages.

In 2011 The Million Dollar Quartet made its debut in the London’s West End.

 

3. Beautiful

This is the story of Carole King and her rise to songwriting fame. The entire songbook is comprised of tunes written by Carole King. Sometimes these songs were written alongside Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and Phil Spector.

Premiering at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, Beautiful was a hit on the west coast in 2013. By 2014 this jukebox musical opened on Broadway in the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in January. The next year a production opened on the West End of London and a tour was launched in 2015.

The Broadway production was nominated for seven Tony Awards in 2014 with Jessie Mueller winning for Best Leading Actress in a Musical and Brian Ronan winning for Best Sound Design. It also won two Drama Desk Awards in that same years and a Grammy in 2015 Best Musical Theater Album.

The West End Production won two Laurence Olivier Awards in 2015. One went to Katie Brayben for Best Actress in a Musical and the other to Lorna Want for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical.

 

4. Ring of Fire

For the second time in this piece we talk about Johnny Cash, but this jukebox musical isn’t about some random get together with Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, this show revolves around the music created and recorded by the Man in Black.

There was a small opening held at Buffalo’s Studio Arena Theatre in 2005 and did favorably with the critics.

The next year this musical hit Broadway on March 12 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The primary cast featured six performers paired as a young, middle-aged, and older couple.

The reviews were mixed and ticket sales never took off so Ring of Fire closed after only a little more than a month. They didn’t even do sixty performances.

Still, as musicals have a way of doing, the Charlottletown Festival in Prince Edward Island produced the show in June of 2012. The next year a reworked jukebox musical named Ring of Fire was staged in Wisconsin at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

 

5. Movin’ Out

Billy Joel’s music is the impetus in this jukebox musical. The story is of a young Americans from Long Island in the 60’s and how they deal with the Vietnam War. This jukebox musical is unique because none of the dancers sang the tunes and was basically a bunch of dance numbers tied together loosely with a lean story.

Pre-Broadway auditions were held in Chicago at the Shubert Theater in the last summer of 2002. In October of that same year Movin’ Out premiered at the Richard Rodgers Theatre and ran for more than three years.

In 2003 this jukebox musical won two Tony Awards, one for Best Choreography and another for Best Orchestrations, which happed to be Billy Joel himself alongside Stuart Malina.

That same year this Billy Joel inspired musical also won a Drama Desk Award and a Theatre World Award.

The West End production only ran for two months in spite of the good reviews it received.

 

6. We Will Rock You

Surrounded by the songs of the English band Queen this jukebox musical, written by Ben Elton, tells a tale of Bohemians who are trying to reestablish uninhibited thought and culture.

The original production opened on May 12, 2002 at the Dominion Theatre in the West End of London. It earned its title as longest running musical at the Dominion in August of 2005. This production finally shut down in May of 2014. In 2011 it won the Audience Award for Most Popular Show at the Laurence Olivier Awards.

Productions have also popped up in Australia, Japan, Spain, Russia, Germany, South Africa, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Brazil, and the United States.

Often times Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen will attend and perform at special events or premieres of the musical.

 

7. Our House

This jukebox musical is based on the music of UK ska band Madness. It premiered in 2002 at the Cambridge Theater and it won the 2003 Olivier award for Best New Musical. Still, the reviews were mixed and the musical closed after only performing for ten months.

International productions include Japan in 2006 and Israel in 2010. The University of Melbourne Music Theatre Association premiered their own production in May of 2014.

Following along with the music of Madness this story surround Joe Casey who makes a fateful choice on his sixteenth birthday. Wanting to show off in front of Sarah, the girl he loves, Joe breaks into a new building going up in his neighborhood. The police show up and this is where Joe’s story divides in two.

One Joe confesses to the crime while the other runs and lets Sarah take the heat. We watch as both choices evolve into two different lives, each belonging to Joe. This is all viewed by Joe’s dead father, who is the glue between the two story lines.

 

8. I Dreamed a Dream

Our next jukebox musical is not based on the famous rock bands and songwriters we’ve talked about up until this point. This one tells the story of Susan Boyle, the Scottish woman who surprised everyone in the world with her singing on the UK’s television program Britain’s Got Talent.

Boyle sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables and shocked the world with her stunning voice. The audience and judges were mostly shocked due to her matronly look and spit-fire attitude.

This jukebox musical, written by Alan McHugh and Elaine C. Smith, follows Boyle’s life following her autobiography released in 2010.

The original production premiered at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle on March 27, 2012. The reviews were positive and the show toured through Ireland and the UK for most of that year.

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