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Jukebox Musicals: Here We Go Again!


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By Aidan Clark ‘21

The latest trend on Broadway is jukebox musicals, or musicals consisting of songs from an already famous artist. Whether the story is based on the life story of the artist or a completely unique story set to popular songs, these musicals are attracting the masses to Broadway theaters.

Broadway is a risky business: about one in every five shows actually makes a profit. However, the immense popularity of shows such as Hamilton and the social media fame of musicals like Be More Chill and Mean Girls have initiated thousands of fans into the world of musical theater. The growing number of jukebox musicals, like Beautiful, a biographical show about Carole King, and Head Over Heels, featuring the music of the Go-Go Girls, are continuing to draw these new fans to more shows.

Arguably the most popular jukebox musical is Mamma Mia, whose sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was recently released, earning 14 million dollars on its opening day. Originally appearing on stage in 2001, it was made into a movie in 2008. Highlighting the music of ABBA, their success spurred the writing and producing of future jukebox musicals, to capitalize on people’s newfound interest.

Westborough High School sophomore Ella Wahlers says, “I like ABBA songs so I love all the music [of Mamma Mia] obviously.”

A reason for the overwhelming success of jukebox musicals is the benefit of a wider audience. By basing shows off artists with previously made fanbases, musicals can draw those fans in and make even more money. The nostalgia of people’s favorite musicians can cause them to decide to purchase tickets.

Mr. Martin, Head of the Fine Arts Department, remarks, “given the success of jukebox musicals such as Mamma Mia & Jersey Boys, many artists begin seeing the potential to reach a new audience, as well as make some substantial income. In today’s world of social media and the constant drive to outperform your colleagues, these artists form a production team and begin work on ‘the next great musical’.”

However, basing a story’s plot around pre-written songs can lead to some weak or unexciting shows.

WHS sophomore Shannon Hackett comments, “jukebox musicals as a whole are alright, but a general flawed medium because they rely on music too much to tie together the plot and don’t end up creating one in the first place. But watching Jukebox musicals for entertainment is a very enjoyable experience because all of the songs are bops and it’s very easy to sing along to…”

Mr. Martin also adds, “shows such as “Mamma Mia” & “Jersey Boys” attract an older skewing audience, who then bring their children and grandchildren to the theater and expose an entire new generation to their music. I am a prime example of this phenomenon, as my grandmother asked me to accompany her to “Jersey Boys” last year. I begrudgingly agreed and ended up genuinely enjoying the music, most of which I had never heard before.”

Despite critiques that jukebox musicals are simply compilations of famous songs, ever since Mamma Mia’s success, more and more of them have been coming to Broadway. The theater community shall see if they can use popular music to their advantage and hold their place in Broadway theaters.

 

http://www.playbill.com/article/20-jukebox-musicals-that-brought-your-favorite-music-to-broadway

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/29/theater/jukebox-musicals-broadway.html

https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2016/06/16/breaking-down-broadway

https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2018/07/21/mamma-mia-here-we-go-again-friday-box-office-cher-meryl-streep-lily-james-amanda-seyfried/#e35a95f65272

 

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Jukebox Musicals: Here We Go Again!