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A jukebox musical is a stage or film musical that uses previously released popular songs as its musical score. Usually the songs have a connection with a particular popular musician or group — because they were either written by, or for, the artists in question, or at least covered by them. The songs are contextualized into a dramatic plot: often the biographical story of the performer(s) whose music is featured, although in some cases the plot does not revolve around the particular group at all.
A few films described as jukebox musicals feature a rock group or performer playing a fictional version of themselves using previously unreleased new music. For example, Andrew Sarris paid a high compliment to the Beatles first film A Hard Day's Night, calling it "the Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals", although all the Beatles songs in it were heard for the first time in this film. This is also true of the Beatles' second and third films, Help! and Magical Mystery Tour, although their fourth film Yellow Submarine featured mostly previously released material. Prior to the Beatles, many Elvis Presley films contained previously unreleased songs. Similarly, in the 1980s, Prince's film Purple Rain in which Prince plays a fictional musician called "The Kid", also features previously unreleased Prince songs.
Other films described as jukebox musicals take all their songs from a single concept album featuring an integrated song cycle with a story arc, sometimes labeled a rock opera. Both the movies of The Who's Tommy and of Pink Floyd's The Wall adapted the entire song cycle of a single album which already revolved around a fictional character.
Although jukebox musicals had achieved success for years (for instance Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story, the musical about the life of Buddy Holly which ran in the West End for 13 years from 1989 to 2003), their recent surge in popularity was led by the success of Mamma Mia!, built around the music of ABBA.
Reception of jukebox musicals has been divided, with the most common criticism being that there is too much focus on how many songs can be fit into the musical. Some jukebox musicals, like Lennon and Good Vibrations have been critical and financial flops. Others, like Jersey Boys and All Shook Up have received acclaim and have become popular with fans and critics alike.
The term "jukebox musical" dates at least to 1962, following jukebox (1939), though the general genre – motion pictures consisting largely of hit recordings – dates to the 1940s and 1950s. Examples are Jam Session, An American in Paris (1951), Rock, Rock, Rock (1956); Rock Around the Clock (1956), Juke Box Rhythm (1959), and A Hard Day's Night (1964).
List of jukebox musicals
|Year||Title||Based on the music of|
|1975||The Night That Made America Famous||Harry Chapin|
|1977||Beatlemania (revue)||The Beatles|
|1978||Ain't Misbehavin'||the Harlem Renaissance/Fats Waller|
|Year||Title||Based on the music of|
|1984||Leader of the Pack||Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and Phil Spector|
|1988||Always ... Patsy Cline||Patsy Cline|
|1989||Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story||Buddy Holly, including many early rock "standards"|
|1989||Return to the Forbidden Planet||1960's rock and roll|
|Year||Title||Based on the music of|
|1990||Forever Plaid||male vocal harmony groups of the 1950s|
|1990||Five Guys Named Moe||Louis Jordan|
|1995||Smokey Joe's Cafe||Leiber and Stoller|
|1997||Boogie Nights||the 70s|
|1998||Saturday Night Fever||Bee Gees|
|1999||Disco Inferno||1970s disco|
|1999||The Marvelous Wonderettes||female vocal harmony groups of the 1950s and 1960s|
List of jukebox musical films
- Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), a picture dealing with the life of Playwright and Composer George M. Cohan, and featuring many of his greatest songs, which were among the most popular songs of their day (Late 19th Century-Early 20th Century).
- Meet Me in St. Louis (1945), featuring mostly popular songs from the earlier 20th century and three new songs written for Judy Garland.
- Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), a biopic of composer Jerome Kern, featuring his songs.
- Easter Parade (1948), featuring a collection of songs by Irving Berlin.
- One Sunday Afternoon (1948), featuring popular songs from the earlier 20th century.
- Singin' in the Rain (1952), featuring popular songs from the 1920s and '30s and songs by Arthur Freed.
- Love Me or Leave Me (1955), featuring popular songs from the 1930s.
- Hootenanny Hoot (1963), a low-budget MGM picture intended to capitalize on the Folk Music craze then sweeping America, featuring on-screen performances by Johnny Cash, Judy Henske, and several other Folk Music artists.
- Your Cheatin' Heart (1964), based on the Life Story of Hank Williams, and featuring many of his greatest songs.
- A Hard Day's Night (1964), based on mostly previously unreleased songs of The Beatles.
- Help! (1965), based on mostly previously unreleased songs of The Beatles.
- Yellow Submarine (1968), based on the songs of The Beatles.
- At Long Last Love (1975), based on the songs of Cole Porter.
- Tommy (1975), based on The Who's rock opera Tommy.
- All This and World War II (1976), a World War II documentary featuring the songs of The Beatles.
- New York, New York (1977), featuring popular music from the 1920s through the 1940s.
- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978), based on the songs of The Beatles and their album of the same name.
- All That Jazz (1979), featuring popular music from the earlier 20th century.
- Can't Stop the Music (1980), featuring contemporary disco songs.
- The Blues Brothers (1980), featuring various popular rhythm & blues songs.
- American Pop (1981), featuring rock songs from the 1960s and '70s.
- Pennies from Heaven (1981), based on 1930s jazz standards, based around MGM musicals.
- Pink Floyd – The Wall (1982), based around the Pink Floyd rock opera "The Wall".
- Purple Rain (1984), featuring previously unreleased music from Prince and The Time.
- Everyone Says I Love You (1996), featuring popular music from the earlier 20th century.
- Spice World (1997), based on the music of The Spice Girls
- Blues Brothers 2000 (1998), featuring various popular rhythm & blues songs.
- Love's Labour's Lost (2000), featuring classic Broadway songs of the 1930s.
- Moulin Rouge! (2001), featuring a variety of pop songs from various decades.
- Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem (2003), based on the Discovery album by Daft Punk
- Ray (2004), based on the music of Ray Charles
- 20 centímetros (2005), Various Artists, featuring a variety of pop songs from various decades.
- Walk the Line (2005), based on the music of Johnny Cash.
- Happy Feet (2006), featuring a variety of pop songs from various decades.
- Idlewild (2006), featuring the songs of OutKast
- Romance & Cigarettes (2006), featuring mostly love themed pop-songs from the 1950s through '70s.
- Across the Universe (2007), featuring the songs of The Beatles.
- Stilyagi (2008), featuring Soviet rock songs from the 1970s and '80s.
- Mamma Mia! (2008), based on the musical Mamma Mia!, which is based on the songs of ABBA
- Gnomeo & Juliet (2011), based mostly on the music of Elton John.
- Happy Feet Two (2011), featuring a variety of pop songs from various decades.
- Rock of Ages (2012), featuring hard rock and metal songs of the 1980s.
- Lovestruck: The Musical (2013), featuring various pop and dance songs of the 1980s through present.
- Sunshine on Leith (2013), based on the Musical Sunshine on Leith, which is based on the songs of The Proclaimers
- Jersey Boys (2014), based on the musical Jersey Boys, which is based on the music of The Four Seasons
- Walking on Sunshine (2014), featuring pop-songs from the 1980s.
- Strange Magic (2015) featuring various genres and various artists.
- Trolls (2016) featuring various genres and various artists.
- Sing (2016) featuring various genres and various artists.
List of jukebox musical TV shows
- Blackpool (2007)
- Viva Laughlin (2007)
- Glee (2009)
- The Kitchen Musical (2011)
- Smash (2012)
- Beat Bugs (2016), which uses a different Beatles song as the inspiration for each episode
- "Mamma Mia! and the Rise of the Jukebox Musical". Cheap Theater Tickets. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
- Guide to the Performing Arts: 3460, Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1962, p. 204, "---Kanin, Garson; his jukebox musical with Phil Silvers, Nancy Walker;"