Moulin Rouge!, a jukebox musical, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

A jukebox musical is a stage musical or musical film in which a majority of the songs are well-known popular music songs, rather than original music.

Some jukebox musicals use a wide variety of songs, while others confine themselves to songs performed by one singer or band, or written by one songwriter. In such cases, the plot is often a biography of the artist or artists. In other jukebox musicals, the plot is purely fictional. For musicals about a musician or musical act, some of the songs can be diegetic, meaning that they are performed within the world of the play or film. Works in which all of the music is diegetic, however, such as a biographical film about a singer who is at times shown performing their songs, are generally not considered jukebox musicals.[1]

Revues that lack a plot are also usually not described as jukebox musicals,[2] although plotless shows that include a dance element sometimes are.[3]


In Europe in the 17th and 18th century, many comic operas were produced that parodied popular songs of the time by performing them with modified lyrics. Comédie en vaudevilles and ballad operas are two genres that made heavy use of well-known melodies. The Beggar's Opera (1728), the first ballad opera and the most famous, has been called "the original jukebox musical".[4]

Films considered early examples of jukebox musicals include An American in Paris (1951), Singin' in the Rain (1952), Rock, Rock, Rock (1956) and Rock Around the Clock (1956).

The songwriting team of Robert Wright and George Forrest pioneered the concept of musicals whose songs are derived from one composer's instrumental works, with newly-written lyrics. Some of these musicals also told the life story of that composer. Musicals and operettas that they produced in this fashion include Song of Norway (1944, using the music of Edvard Grieg), Magdalena: a Musical Adventure (1948, music of Heitor Villa-Lobos), a 1949 reworking of the 1934 musical The Great Waltz (music of Johann Strauss I and Johann Strauss II), Kismet (1953, music of Alexander Borodin[2]), and Anya (1965, music of Sergei Rachmaninoff).

The origin of the phrase "jukebox musical" in its current meaning is unclear. The word "jukebox" dates to around 1939. The first documented use of "jukebox musical" in print may have been in a 1962 description of the musical Do Re Mi,[5] but that was a musical (with original music) about a man who sells jukeboxes. In a 1964 review of the Beatles film A Hard Day's Night, critic Andrew Sarris described that film as "the Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals",[6] but he too may have had a meaning in mind other than the contemporary one, since most of that film's songs were original.

Although jukebox musicals had achieved success for years (for example, the 1989 musical Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story), a surge in popularity was led by the success of Mamma Mia! (1999), built around the music of ABBA.[7]

Types of jukebox musicals

The most common format for jukebox musicals is a show that tells the life story of a famous musician or musical group, while incorporating songs from throughout their career. Artists whose life and songs have served as the basis for a jukebox musical include Peter Allen, Susan Boyle, Shlomo Carlebach, Johnny Cash, Cher, Patsy Cline, Bobby Darin, The Drifters, Emilio and Gloria Estefan, Buddy Holly, Michael Jackson (twice), Janis Joplin, Carole King, The Kinks, Fela Kuti, John Lennon, Udo Lindenberg, Bob Marley (twice), Johnny O'Keefe, The Seekers, Dusty Springfield (twice), Donna Summer, The Temptations, Tina Turner (twice), Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, Hank Williams, and Neil Diamond.[3] Others who have gotten similar treatment include songwriter/producers Bert Berns, Berry Gordy and Ellie Greenwich, record producer Florence Greenberg, and composer/songwriter Norbert Glanzberg.

For jukebox musicals with a fictional plot, one common approach is to center the plot around one or more (fictional) singers or musicians, thus letting some of the songs be performed as songs within the show. Examples of such musicals include Boogie Nights (1998), Mamma Mia! (1999), We Will Rock You (2002), Hoy no me puedo levantar (2005), Bésame mucho, el musical (2005), Rock of Ages (2005), Daddy Cool (2006), Never Forget (2007), Viva Forever! (2012), All Out of Love (2018), and Jukebox Hero (2018).

Some jukebox musicals are adaptations of a film, in which songs from the film's soundtrack are now sung by the characters; examples include Saturday Night Fever (1998), Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (2006), Cruel Intentions: The '90s Musical (2015) and the upcoming My Best Friend's Wedding.

Some shows and films combine original and previously-released songs; it may be a matter of opinion whether these qualify as jukebox musicals. For example, the stage musicals 42nd Street (1980), Five Guys Named Moe (1990), Crazy for You (1992), and Xanadu (2007) are all adaptations of earlier source material that added to the original score other well-known songs written by the original songwriters. The stage musicals The Last Ship (2014) and Standing at the Sky's Edge (2019) and film musicals Yellow Submarine (1968) and Idlewild (2006) are all musicals that combine original and previously-recorded songs by a single artist or group. Other films that combine old and original songs include Singin' in the Rain (1952), Trolls (2016), and Cinderella (2021).

List of stage jukebox musicals


Year Title Based on the music of
1976 Bubbling Brown Sugar Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, et al.
1977 Beatlemania The Beatles
1977 Elvis Elvis Presley
1978 Ain't Misbehavin' Fats Waller
1978 Eubie! Eubie Blake


Year Title Based on the music of
1980 42nd Street Al Dubin, Johnny Mercer, and Harry Warren
1983 Abbacadabra ABBA
1984 Leader of the Pack Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and Phil Spector
1986 Big Deal Popular songs from the 1920s and 30s
1987 Hank Williams: Lost Highway Hank Williams
1989 Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story Buddy Holly, including many early rock "standards"
1989 Forever Plaid Popular songs from the 1950s
1989 Return to the Forbidden Planet 1960s rock and roll


Year Title Based on the music of
1992 Jelly's Last Jam Jelly Roll Morton
1993 The Who's Tommy The Who
1996 Summer Holiday Cliff Richard & The Shadows
1997 Boogie Nights The 1970s
1998 Saturday Night Fever Bee Gees and others
1999 Disco Inferno 1970s disco
1999 Mamma Mia! ABBA
1999 The Marvelous Wonderettes Female vocal harmony groups of the 1950s and 1960s


Year Title Based on the music of
2001 Love, Janis Janis Joplin
2001 Shout! The Legend of The Wild One Johnny O'Keefe
2002 We Will Rock You Queen
2002 Our House Madness
2002 Movin' Out Billy Joel
2003 Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem Daft Punk
2003 The Boy from Oz Peter Allen
2003 Tonight's the Night Rod Stewart
2003 Belles belles belles Claude François
2004 On the Record The Walt Disney Company
2005 Back to the 80's! Various 80s pop artists
2005 Lennon John Lennon
2005 Good Vibrations The Beach Boys
2005 All Shook Up Elvis Presley
2005 Jersey Boys Frankie Valli and Four Seasons
2005 Hoy no me puedo levantar Spanish group Mecano
2005 Bésame mucho, el musical Mexican and Cuban bolero songs
2006 Dusty – The Original Pop Diva Dusty Springfield
2006 Hot Feet Earth, Wind & Fire
2006 Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Various artists, based on the movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
2006 Daddy Cool Frank Farian
2006 Ring of Fire Johnny Cash
2006 Rock of Ages Glam metal of the 1980s
2006 The Times They Are a-Changin' Bob Dylan
2006 The Onion Cellar The Dresden Dolls
2007 Desperately Seeking Susan Blondie
2007 Never Forget Take That
2007 Ich war noch niemals in New York [de] Udo Jürgens
2007 Xanadu Electric Light Orchestra and Olivia Newton-John
2007 Sunshine on Leith The Proclaimers
2007 The Slide The Beautiful South
2008 All the Fun of the Fair David Essex
2008 Je m'voyais déjà : Le musical [fr] Charles Aznavour
2009 Dreamboats and Petticoats Compilation album of songs from the 1950s and early 1960s
2009 Mentiras, el musical Mexican songs from the 1980s
2009 Fela! Fela Kuti
2009 Life Could Be a Dream Doo-wop music circa 1960
2009 American Idiot Green Day, based on the album of the same name


Year Title Based on the music of
2010 Perfect Harmony Various artists (ranging from The Jackson 5, to Pat Benatar)
2010 Everyday Rapture Various artists (ranging from Judy Garland and The Supremes, to Mr. Rogers)
2010 Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles The Beatles
2010 Come Fly Away Frank Sinatra
2010 Million Dollar Quartet Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash
2010 Padam Padam : Le spectacle musical [fr] Norbert Glanzberg
2011 Baby It's You! Popular songs from the 1960s produced by Florence Greenberg
2011 Si nos dejan Mexican songs from the 1930s to 1950s
2011 Hinterm Horizont [de] Udo Lindenberg
2012 The Bodyguard Whitney Houston
2012 I Dreamed a Dream Susan Boyle
2012 Raiding the Rock Vault[8] Various classic rock songs
2012 Viva Forever! Spice Girls
2012 Soul Sister Tina Turner
2012 Let it Be The Beatles
2012 Disaster! Popular songs from the 1970s
2012 Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots The Flaming Lips
2013 A Night with Janis Joplin Janis Joplin
2013 Beautiful: The Carole King Musical Carole King
2013 Soul Doctor Shlomo Carlebach and Nina Simone
2013 Motown: The Musical Motown
2014 Bullets Over Broadway Popular songs from the 1910s and 20s, based on the film Bullets Over Broadway
2014 Holler If Ya Hear Me Tupac Shakur
2014 Cyrano de BurgerShack Various artists including Carly Rae Jepsen and Smash Mouth[9]
2014 Sunny Afternoon The Kinks
2014 Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill Billie Holiday
2014 Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story Bert Berns
2015 On Your Feet! Emilio Estefan and Gloria Estefan
2015 One Love: The Bob Marley Musical Bob Marley
2015 Résiste France Gall
2015 Cruel Intentions: The '90s Musical Popular songs from the 1990s, based on the movie Cruel Intentions
2015 Georgy Girl The Seekers and other popular songs of the 1960s
2016 Lazarus David Bowie
2016 Dream Lover: The Bobby Darin Musical Bobby Darin
2017 The Band Take That
2017 Noites de Verão Britney Spears, based on the play A Midsummer Night's Dream
2017 Part of the Plan Dan Fogelberg
2017 Girl from the North Country Bob Dylan
2017 Summer: The Donna Summer Musical Donna Summer
2017 I am from Austria [de] Rainhard Fendrich
2017 Bat Out of Hell: The Musical Jim Steinman
2017 The Choir of Man Various artists
2018 Dusty – The Dusty Springfield Musical Dusty Springfield
2018 Jukebox Hero Foreigner
2018 Escape to Margaritaville Jimmy Buffett
2018 Ang Huling El Bimbo Eraserheads
2018 Tina Tina Turner
2018 Jagged Little Pill Alanis Morissette
2018 Head over Heels The Go-Go's
2018 The Cher Show Cher
2018 Clueless Popular songs from the 1990s, based on the movie Clueless
2018 All Out of Love[10][11] Air Supply
2018 Ain't Too Proud The Temptations
2018 Moulin Rouge! Various artists
2019 Club Tropicana Various artists from the 1980s
2019 Standing at the Sky's Edge Richard Hawley
2019 Madea's Farewell Various artists
2019 & Juliet Max Martin


Year Title Based on the music of
2020 POP- Uma Volta no Tempo Popular songs from girl groups and boy bands
2021 The Drifters Girl The Drifters
2021 Once Upon a One More Time Britney Spears
2021 Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical Bob Marley
2021 What's New Pussycat? Tom Jones
2021 Je vais t'aimer Michel Sardou
2021 MJ the Musical Michael Jackson
2022 A Beautiful Noise Neil Diamond
2022 The Osmonds The Osmonds
2023 In Dreams Roy Orbison
2023 Holidays Madonna
2023 Hell's Kitchen Alicia Keys
2024 Just For One Day (musical) Live Aid
2024 Lost Without You: The Freya Ridings Musical Freya Ridings
2024 Joyride the musical Roxette
TBA My Best Friend's Wedding Burt Bacharach and Hal David, based on the film My Best Friend's Wedding

List of jukebox musical films

List of jukebox musical TV shows

Works based on concept albums

In a different category are films or stage musicals based around a concept album, in which the story being told is not original but rather a fleshed-out version of the narrative already contained in the album. Examples include:


  1. ^ Brown, Mark (23 April 2013). "The Commitments to be turned into West End musical". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 26 June 2013. It will include many classic soul songs, including Mustang Sally, but most definitely will not be a "jukebox musical", said Doyle.
  2. ^ a b "Can Critics Learn to Love the Jukebox Musical?". The New York Times. August 29, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Larson, Sarah (July 22, 2014). "LET'S ROCK: IN DEFENSE OF JUKEBOX MUSICALS". The New Yorker.
  4. ^ Smith, Rowena (August 17, 2018). "The Beggar's Opera review – the original jukebox musical reimagined". The Guardian.
  5. ^ Guide to the Performing Arts: 3460, Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1962, p. 204, "—Kanin, Garson; his jukebox musical with Phil Silvers, Nancy Walker".
  6. ^ Eder, Bruce (December 11, 1989). "A Hard Day's Night". The Criterion Collection.
  7. ^ "Mamma Mia! and the Rise of the Jukebox Musical". Cheap Theater Tickets. 2 April 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  8. ^ Jeff Giles (October 21, 2016). "Cheap Trick, Journey and Foreigner vets lead new 'Rock Pack' concert experience". Ultimate Classic Rock. Townsquare Media. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  9. ^ Cyrano de BurgerShack, retrieved 2021-07-15
  10. ^ "Photo Flash: First Look At The Air Supply Musical ALL OUT OF LOVE in Manila". Broadway World. Wisdom Digital Media. 19 October 2018. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  11. ^ Katigbak, Fran (23 June 2018). "All Out of Love: Here it is, an Air Supply jukebox musical!". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 21 October 2018.