Jukebox musicals are not a new phenomenon. When the Beatles film, A Hard Day’s Night, was greeted as the ‘Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals’ the term was already well established. Bill Hailey, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and The Who all produced films in which the story revolves around the songs, which come thick and fast. When Buddy (featuring the music of Buddy Holly) and Return to the Forbidden Planet (1960s rock and roll) hit the stage in 1989, the modern era of Jukebox musical theatre began, and the huge success of Mama Mia (Abba) brought the genre to the forefront of everyone’s mind. Of course, the appeal of a jukebox musical lies in the fact that the audience will already know and love many of the songs featured. If the show is based upon the music of a particular group or artist, as are Mama Mia and We Will Rock You, it is almost guaranteed an audience of fans who know all the lyrics and are invested in the performance before it even starts. Unfortunately, this does not appear to have been the case for the ill-fated Tonight’s the Night, which in spite of a comprehensive set of Rod Stewart songs and a cracking premise, bombed and closed in under a year. So which Jukebox musicals are currently running in London?
We Will Rock You, which features the music of Queen, and is based around a flimsily constructed futuristic dystopian tale, is currently the West End’s longest running musical, having been at the Dominion Theatre for the last twelve years. Queen have recently announced that the last performance at the Dominion will be on May 31st. Songs you know and love: Killer Queen, A Kind if Magic, Somebody to Love, Hammer to Fall, Bohemian Rhapsody …
268-269 Tottenham Court Road
0845 200 7982
Motown the Musical, at the Shaftesbury Theatre. From his time working on car factory production lines, to seeing his vision of uniting people through music expressed by world-class artists, Motown the Musical tells the story of the life and music of Berry Gordy, founder of the Tamla Motown record label. Songs you know and love: My Girl, Dancing in the Street, Reet Petite, I heard it Through the Grapevine, Mercy Mercy Me …
210 Shaftesbury Avenue
020 7379 5399
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, at the Aldwych Theatre. This biographical musical tells the story of Carole King, from her time as an aspiring young songwriter, through her marriage and song writing partnership with Gerry Goffin, to her success as a solo writer and artist. Featuring songs by Goffin and King, as well as by their good friends, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and Phil Spectre. Songs you know and love: Oh Carol! It Might as Well Rain Until September, You’ve got a Friend, Will You Love Me Tomorrow? …
0845 200 7981
Jersey Boys at the Piccadily Theatre. Multi award-winning musical of the life and music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The band members take it in turns to tell the story from their own perspective, and take the audience through their history from their early days in New Jersey to international fame and success.
Songs you know and love: Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Rag Doll, Walk Like a Man …
16 Denman St
0844 871 7630
Sunny Afternoon at the Harold Pinter Theatre tells the story of ground-breaking band The Kinks, written by founder member and songwriter and lead singer, Ray Davies. The huge Kinks back catalogue is used to tell the story of how the band achieved its distinctive sound, the volatile relationship between Davies brothers Ray and Dave, their success as a quintessentially British band and their mixed fortunes in the States. Sunny Afternoon was described by Martin Freeman as ‘a bit like seeing the Kinks live.’
Songs you know and love: Waterloo Sunset, Days, You Really Got Me, Lola, Dedicated Follower of Fashion, Sunny Afternoon …
Harold Pinter Theater
0844 871 7627
Mama Mia has moved around the West End since its debut there in 1999, and is currently at the Novello Theatre. Featuring the songs of Swedish supergroup, Abba, this musical does not make any reference to the group, but uses their hits in a pre-wedding tale of confused paternity and long-lost loves.
Songs you know and love: Dancing Queen, The Winner Takes it All, Does Your Mother know?, Money Money Money …
The Novello Theatre
0844 482 5170