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A jukebox musical is a musical film or stage presentation featuring the songs of popular music acts. The term was originally (and is still) used to describe films starring famous popular music acts showcasing their own recorded songs, not necessarily as part of a traditional musical score (though they are sometimes augmented with scored background music). Use of the term has also grown to encompass musical films and theatrical presentations that celebrate past or present music acts or personalities, usually played by professional actors singing new renditions of the real artists' previously-recorded songs and other material, done in a manner more akin to a typical Broadway musical, where songs are incorporated into a formal musical score and accompanied by choreography. The songs in jukebox musicals (of both kinds) are often contextualized into a dramatic plot, and particularly in the case of the later kind, a biographical story about the featured performer(s). In some instances plots do not revolve around the musical act(s) making appearances.
Jukebox musical films of the first kind often feature famous pop stars and rock groups playing themselves, such as the Beatles in their narrative films, or in other cases playing as alter egos. Some films star one well-known act, but others include a variety of acts. Some jukebox musicals include previously recorded songs, but others introduce unreleased material, such the Beatles' did in their first film, A Hard Day's Night, which Andrew Sarris described as "the Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals", as well as in their second and third features, Help! and Magical Mystery Tour (their fourth film, the animated Yellow Submarine, featured mostly previously released songs). Prior to the Beatles, Elvis Presley's movies sometimes contained previously unreleased music. In the 1980s, Prince's Purple Rain, in which he played a fictional character called the Kid, also featured new 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), a 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 been popular with both fans and critics.
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) and Juke Box Rhythm (1959).
List of stage 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|
|1999||It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues||5 Tony Nominations|
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.
- An American in Paris (1951), a fictionalized story based around George Gershwin's "An American in Paris" suite. The score consists entirely of George and Ira Gershwin pieces, with "American in Paris" being a recurring theme.
- Singin' in the Rain (1952), featuring popular songs from the 1920s and '30s and songs by Arthur Freed, with the exception of two numbers ("Make 'Em Laugh" and "Moses Supposes")
- Love Me or Leave Me (1955), featuring popular songs from the 1930s.
- Rock Around the Clock (1956), the first rock-and-roll movie musical, featuring the commercial recordings of Bill Haley and His Comets and The Platters.
- Don't Knock the Rock (1957), another Bill Haley jukebox musical, with the commercial recordings of Haley, Little Richard, and The Treniers.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018), sequel to the first film based on the musical Mamma Mia!, which is based on the songs of ABBA.
List of jukebox musical TV shows
- Kids Incorporated (1984)
- 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